Businesses - coronavirus

Can my buffet service remain open?

It is not the food itself or the cutlery that presents a problem. But if there are infected people in the venue, the crowded environment and people being close to each other may contribute to further transmission of the virus.

To keep your buffet service open you need to comply with the "Public Health Agency's regulations and guidelines regarding preventing the spread of covid-19 at restaurants and cafés etc." while continuing to follow the business' regular hygiene procedures.

The Public Health Agency emphasises that there must be no crowding between people in queues, at tables, buffets, and bars. Visitors have to be able to keep distance from each other.

The regulation states that:

  • the visitor must be seated at a table when eating and drinking, or order the food for take away.
  • standing at bars to receive service is not allowed.

If an employee in our kitchen has coronavirus, could the virus be transmitted through the food being served?

Currently, there is nothing to indicate that you could get ill if you eat food contaminated with coronavirus. Coronavirus is mainly contagious through microscopic droplets in the air entering the airway – not through the gastrointestinal tract.

If you are ill, you should not work. If your food business has an employee who has fallen ill - follow the Public Health Agency's recommendations.

Should we be extra careful to clean and disinfect the kitchen/restaurant due to corona?

A food business should follow its regular cleaning routines regarding kitchens and service. There is no need to do anything in addition to that due to corona. Regular disinfectants ensure that the coronavirus loses its ability to infect.

Does food need to be discarded due to coronavirus or does the regular routines for utilizing leftovers apply?

Regular routines apply. Currently, there is nothing to indicate that you could get ill if you eat food contaminated with coronavirus. Coronavirus is mainly contagious through microscopic droplets in the air entering the airway – not through the gastrointestinal tract.

I want to change how my business is run due to the corona crisis – how do I go about it?

Corona means a new and unpredictable situation for a lot of businesses. As a result, new ideas and opportunities may arise for adapting your business. For example, this could mean making take away lunchboxes or delivering groceries, or ready made food to customers' homes.

New business ventures may mean new risks in food management. Therefore, it is important that you as a business owner keep track of the risks and how to manage them.

If you have a registered or approved food business, you need to report any changes to your business. For most businesses selling food directly to consumers, it is your municipality that is the supervisory authority that you report any changes to. When reporting a change in your business you can also receive some support regarding what is important to consider and where more information can be found.

I am having trouble paying my yearly control fee now. Will the municipalities still charge an annual fee for food inspections?

It is up to each individual supervisory authority to decide whether they will charge a fee. Some fees are obligatory, such as fee for slaughterhouse inspections. As for shops, cafés, restaurants, and other businesses inspected by municipal authorities, the Swedish Food Agency has published the following recommendation due to the current situation:

  • Currently there is reason to postpone invoices and defer payments of sent invoices.
  • Later a situation may arise where it is appropriate to waive the fee partially or entirely. However, this will be decided by each respective supervisory authority. Section 10 of Ordinance (2006:1166) on fees for official checks of foodstuffs and certain agricultural products makes it possible to reduce the fee due to special circumstances.

Do I have to accept visitation from food inspectors if I am worried about transmission?

As with all other businesses in society, most supervisory authorities, municipalities, county administrations, and the Swedish Food Agency are reprioritising their business practises. The Swedish Food Agency has publicised the following advice concerning inspections while the coronavirus is spreading:

  • No inspections shall be carried out in nursing homes, hospitals, or other businesses where persons at risk are present. Exceptions can be made if there is risk of food poisoning or suspicion of major deficiencies making people sick.
  • Inspections should be risk-based, but should be carried out in a flexible manner. If there are suspicions of food poisoning, major deficiencies in handling, or if there are suspicions of consumers being deceived, an inspection should be carried out as usual.
  • Inspections regarding e-commerce should focus on misleading food commerce, such as nutritional supplements and similar products incorrectly claimed to be curing or protecting against diseases such as covid-19.
  • If possible, physical inspections should be avoided. Instead the authority could complete the inspection via Skype or over the phone. Desk audits where you collect the necessary documents is also appropriate.
  • Scheduled inspections could be a good alternative if an inspection needs to be carried out.
  • Authorities should respect the fact that businesses may have difficulty prioritising inspections at present.
  • Some companies may need to employ new staff that do not possess the same knowledge as regular staff. Authorities should be generous with information as they possess significant knowledge regarding, for example, hygiene and procedures concerning allergy food management.

Can food business operators selling pre-packaged foods to consumers freeze the product in the packaging where it is intended to be sold or served at a later date?

Yes, this is permitted as long as it is done in a proper manner. A food business operator may freeze food products provided that the food is not adversely affected. The shelf-life date shall be adapted to the type of food, freezing method and packaging material used. The packaging must also be labelled correctly so that the consumer is not misled.

This applies to food products marked with a "best before" day

  • The expiry date as indicated by the "best before" date which applies for chilled food products may not be changed to a later date, obscured nor removed.
  • New marking with a best before date adapted to frozen storage must be added.
  • New labelling with storage instructions for the frozen food product must be added.
  • In addition, if the food is frozen in proximity to the end of its shelf life/expiry date, it must be marked with an instruction that the food should be cooked immediately after thawing.
  • Frozen meat, frozen meat preparations (for example, precooked hamburgers or marinated meat) and frozen unprocessed fishery products must also be marked with the freezing date. It is permissible, but not a requirement, to have a freezing date on other food products as well.
  • In addition, if the product is to be released to the market as a deep-frozen food, the requirements for freezing and labelling apply in accordance with the Swedish Food Agency's Regulation LIVSFS 2006:12.

This applies to foods with "final consumption day"
This applies to food products marked with final consumption dating, i.e. a "use by" date. A food product marked with a "use by" date may not be frozen and sold after the last use by date has passed.

However, before the last "use by" date, it is permissible to prepare the food in a dish that is then frozen afterwards. This may be, for instance, minced meat cooked as meatballs. Keep in mind that it is essential to remain aware of the risks if you change your business operations – see the question above "I want to change my business operations."

In other respects, the same rules apply as for products marked with a "best-before-day" (see above).


Coronavirus pandemic - questions and answers

Reviewed 2020-04-28