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COVID-19 Advice for Food and Drink Manufacturers

The FDF is providing companies with updates and advice throughout the COVID-19 outbreak.

This page provides an overview of the government guidance on COVID-19 in the following key areas:

If you are an FDF member you can access further COVID-19 guidance and support in the members area. You can check here whether your company is an FDF member and you can sign up to your online account today.

Re-Opening Post-Lockdown

Westminster has published it's 'plan to rebuild'.

Government has also published non-statutory guidance to help employers, employees and the self- employed understand how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic. The guidance covers eight different workplace settings. Of particular relevance to members will be the guidance aimed at factories, plants and warehouses, although others may also be relevant including vehicles, offices and laboratory settings. Of particular note, however, will be the request to publish risk assessments and the statement that companies must support employees who chose to wear face coverings.

Further guidance has been published including:

UK-wide travel quarantine rules

From 8th June, passengers arriving in the UK will be required to self-isolate for 14 days. There are a number of exceptions to this that may be relevant to the food and drink sector and supply chain colleagues and contractors. Please see the following guidance:

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth office regularly update their travel advice. For latest updates please check.

Scottish Government has published it's Route Map Through and Out of the Crisis. The route map provides an indication of the order in which the Government will “carefully and gradually” seek to change current restrictions. The measures will be reviewed every three weeks, restrictions may move faster or slower depending on the evidence.

Further guidance has been published including:

The Welsh Government has published its strategy for recovery, Unlocking our society and economy: continuing the conversation. This outlines the Government's direction of travel, with examples given against a traffic light system moving from Lockdown through red, amber and green.

Further guidance has been published including:

Food Safety and Science

The Food Standard's Agency has stated COVID-19 is not known to be transmitted by exposure to food or food packaging. Food business operators should continue to follow the FSA's guidance on good hygiene practices in food preparation and their Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) processes.

Key Workers

The UK government has announced workers in 'food and other necessary goods' will have 'key worker' status. This is defined as: “those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery, as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (for example hygienic and veterinary medicines).

The First Minister of Scotland has been clear that food production is part of critical national infrastructure of Scotland and should continue where it is necessary and where it can continue safely in line with social distancing and guidance from Food Standards Scotland.

Clearly companies have a responsibility to ensure that only those workers who are necessary to ensure safe food production and delivery are still required to physically come to work. Anyone who can should work from home.

Social Distancing and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Where possible companies should observe the government's '2 meter' rule. However due to factory design or the nature of the work, it is acknowledged this will not always be possible. Companies have been implementing processes to help ensure the safety of their workers at this time such as limiting movement through the factory, restricting numbers in rooms and staggering shifts or extending factory hours to help minimise the number of people arriving and leaving at the same time.

The most detailed guidance for food and drink manufacturers remains that published by FSS and NIFDA.PHE and the Welsh Government have also both published guidance; these contain limited practical detail but indicate the type of approach expected of business.

The DHSC PPE Plan provides details on how companies who can produce PPE can contribute under its 'make' strategy.

Face Coverings
PHE are advising that if you can, wear a face covering in an enclosed space where social distancing isn't possible and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet. This is most relevant for short periods indoors in crowded areas, for example on public transport or in some shops. See guidance on staying safe outside your home for more information on face coverings.

PHE have produced guidance on how to wear face coverings, this includes how to wash face coverings. As part of the guidance, there is a guide on how to make a simple face covering.

A face covering is not the same as the surgical masks or respirators used as part of PPE by healthcare and other workers; these continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace, and those in industrial settings like those exposed to dust hazards.

Following sustained requests from FDF, DEFRA and the FSA have published additional guidance for food companies on the use of face coverings. The FAQ complements the government guidance on face coverings, and covers general questions on face coverings, the use of face coverings in food production/handling environments and in the retail environment. If face coverings are to be used in the manufacturing environment, the face coverings must be compatible with Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS). If face coverings are not allowed in the manufacturing environment, there should be company procedures on how to safely store the employees face covering.

Face Masks – Normal Health and Safety
The Health and Safety Executive has provided guidance relating to temporary changes which will last for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis relating to the use of face masks and food dust particles. In effect, it allows for the use of FFP2 masks in place of FFP3, where companies are unable to obtain stocks, and following a risk assessment and implementation of dust minimising measures.


UK nations agree that food workers are essential and eligible for the antigen test. To be tested, workers, or someone in their household, must be symptomatic and ideally within 3 days of showing symptoms. The different nations have different mechanisms in place, to enable testing. Please see the details below, along with detailed government guidance.

England and Scotland
In England and Scotland, tests are available through drive-in centres or via at home courier services. Government has produced an information pack for employers which contains detailed information about how tests can be requested and the process that will be followed. A shorter overview is available via the FAQ document.

In brief, the test can be requested:

Government resources to help inform employees about testing options are available.

Although the mechanism to request testing is the same in England and Scotland, Scottish Government has produced its own guidance to the programme, which provides detail of the Scottish Government's approach and a list of Scottish testing centres.

Northern Ireland
In Northern Ireland employees need to email their name and a contact number to NCTP@hscni.net. The Pubic Health Agency will then contact the employee direct to book an appointment at a test centre.

On 12th May testing was rolled out to all critical workers in Wales (including those working in the food industry). To book a test, critical workers and their employers should follow the nearest local operational referral arrangement in place. For further information, please see the Welsh Government guidance and services for coronavirus testing.

Government Guidance

The latest Government guidance on COVID-19 for food and drink manufacturers is available via the following links:

It is important to note that Government advice is changing and being updated as the situation develops.

BEIS has also launched a dedicated business support helpline so individuals can get advice on minimising and dealing with the impacts of Coronavirus. Businesses can call 0300 456 3565 Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm, or email enquiries@businesssupporthelpline.org.

FDF Support

The FDF is aiming to provide companies with regular updates and advice throughout the COVID-19 outbreak.

To support food manufacturers FDF is fully linked into Government as well as other food and business trade bodies. We have a dedicated incident team and clear lines of communication with Government at Secretary of State level and below, including regular calls with the Defra, BEIS, the Scottish Government's Food and Drink Resilience Committee and as a member of the Defra Food Chain Emergency Response Group.

To find out more about how FDF can support your business please click here.

Last reviewed: 21 Sep 2020