Using reusables for dine-in during COVID-19 - advice for cafes


Update: The Qld COVID Safe Checklist was updated in June with the directive that food outlets 'do not accept ‘bring your own cups’, including beverages served by contactless pour'. We continue to present evidence against this directive to Qld Health, but for now must respect their decision.


We all want to do the right thing and keep safe during COVID -19, and for food outlets there is the extra onus to keep your customers safe too. As many cafes prepare to reopen for dine-in, there has been much talk about disposable vs reusable foodware, and what is the safest option.

Unfortunately, there has been a great deal of rumour that single-use is safest, resulting in fears that reusables were unsafe, something not supported by the facts.


The rumour mill (prompted by the opportunistic petrochemical industry) has suggested that food outlets should use plastic disposable foodware when they reopen for dine-in.


We have compiled the official government and health industry advice given to Australian food outlets on this matter, and this rumour is simply not true.


KEEPING PLACES SAFE

It is important that protocols are based on science and government guidance, not rumour. All State and Territory Government advisories say essentially the same thing, making your place COVID-safe is about practicing social distancing and following good hygiene protocols.

It is not about what items you are using - viruses can exist on both single-use and reusables alike. Normal dishwashing practices can remove the virus from reusables- the same cannot be said for single-use packaging, which usually cannot be washed.

The key official messages are:

  • Follow social distancing rules

  • Practice good hygiene when preparing and handling food

  • Wash your hands frequently

  • Clean and sanitise food preparation surfaces and tables

  • Safe handling protocols for menus, foodware and condiments will minimise risks



REUSABLES & HYGIENE, THE FACTS


Government advice follows the recommendations from Food Standards Australia's Food safety checks for food businesses preparing to recommence pre-restriction operations:


‘Areas used for food preparation and serving will need to be thoroughly cleaned, and food preparation surfaces and utensils cleaned and sanitised before use to ensure there is no risk to food safety’.

  • Clean packaged (sealed) food if required, before opening it.

  • Check all stocks of food packaging materials are clean (e.g. takeaway containers)

  • Clean all food areas and clean and sanitise food surfaces, utensils and equipment

  • Clean customer areas and clean and sanitise crockery and cutlery etc.

The usual task of clearing foodware after each course and washing using a commercial grade dishwasher or glasswasher is the perfect behaviour during the pandemic (and required under all guidelines for reusables).


This means that your businesses can have total control of foodware handling, a situation that cannot be claimed for disposable items. You can continue to use your own crockery and cutlery and you do not have to purchase additional costly single-use items.

When it comes to menus, we suggest discarding table menus and using display menus and giving customers access to on-line menus through their phones.

CONCLUSION

So let the relevant authorities guide you, welcome your customers through your door and let them be seated with good old fashioned crockery, your finest crystal glasses and shiniest silverware. 


There is so much that counts for a good dine-in experience, with quality and hygienic reusables playing a major part. As well, when margins are tighter than ever, single-use just doesn't make economic sense

For specific information on the Queensland guidelines for food outlets - see below.


FURTHER INFORMATION

For specific Queensland guidelines and requirements:


For general advice:


For other states and territories:

PLASTIC FREE TOWNSVILLE IS AN INITIATIVE OF

UNDER THE 'PLASTIC FREE PLACES' PROGRAM

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