Food site canteens to remain open during Covid-19

Food site canteens to remain open during Covid-19

Workplace canteens at food production sites will now remain open, despite the Government initially saying that they must close due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

On 23rd March, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced that all non-essential businesses must close in order to slow the spread of coronavirus, a move which originally included workplace canteens.

However, many members of the meat and food industry were concerned that in the case of food production sites where staff are classed as key workers, closure of work canteens could cause issues in relation to bio-security, food safety and staff welfare during long shifts.

The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) said it received a letter from one of its members almost immediately after the chancellors announcement to say that their local authority had been in contact, ordering their workplace canteen to close.

“Where there are no practical alternatives, other workplace canteens can remain open to provide food for their staff and/or provide a space for breaks.”

On 24th March, AIMS wrote to Rishi Sunak asking him to make representations to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the author of the regulations, on behalf of its members.

The next day, the Government provided an update on workplace closures, revealing that canteens at food production sites could remain open: “Where there are no practical alternatives, other workplace canteens can remain open to provide food for their staff and/or provide a space for breaks.

“However, where possible, staff should be encouraged to bring their own food, and distributors should move to takeaway. Measures should be taken to minimise the number of people in the canteen / break space at any one given time, for example by using a rota.”

The Guidance for Food Businesses on Coronavirus (Covid-19) has also since been published, which specifically references maintaining social distancing within food processing plants and guidance on staff canteens and rest areas.

The guidance added: “Workplace canteens may remain open where there are no practical alternatives for staff to obtain food.”

Tony Goodger of AIMS said: “AIMS is grateful to Mr Sunak for his prompt action on behalf of our members and for the subsequent clarification as regards workplace canteens which can continue to run and serve food to food production workers who are working heroically during this national crisis to keep the nation fed.”

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