Questions and answers about restaurant closures at the website of Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment
The Government has submitted a proposal to Parliament on the temporary closure of restaurants and other food and beverage service businesses to customers for three weeks. The act would enter into force on 8 March 2021 and remain in force until 28 March 2021. During that time, meals could still be sold to customers for takeaway and delivery. The closure would apply to food and beverage service businesses in areas where the COVID-19 epidemic is in the acceleration or community transmission phase. Separate provisions on the areas of application will be laid down by government decree.
Staff restaurants and site canteens
Answers are available at The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment.
Setting up a staff restaurant
Can the restaurant of a petrol station be made into a staff restaurant for the employees of a nearby construction site?
The establishment or opening of new staff restaurants (or takeaway restaurants) has not been restricted.
According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, what is decisive when assessing whether the operations can be considered to be staff restaurant operations permitted in legislation is whether the restaurant is open to outsiders or only to a limited group of people. Staff restaurant operations mean meals organised for the community’s own personnel or a group of people that is limited in some other way. For example, a staff restaurant is a restaurant serving the personnel of a certain workplace or parties limited in some other way and it is not open to outsiders. A limited group of people has not been defined in more detail in legislation. Therefore, a limited group of people may as a rule also consist of the personnel of several workplaces as long as the restaurant is not open to outsiders.
If the restaurant/petrol station has a separate space/room that is reserved only for a specific group (for example, people working at a certain workplace), this space/room can be considered a staff restaurant. Most importantly, it must be possible to minimise contacts that cause a risk of infection as much as possible. A staff restaurant cannot be open to outsiders and the use of the facilities must be clearly restricted from other customers of the petrol station. Restaurant keepers must decide themselves how sufficient restrictions will be carried out.
If the restaurant is also open for takeaway customers, it is not a staff restaurant.
The operator should contact the food control authority in the municipality to inform the authority about continued operations in the emergency conditions.
Can I prepare take-away meals for sale to consumers in my home without a food premises notification while the state of emergency is ongoing?
If you prepare meals for sale in your home, you need to file a food premises notification to your municipality’s food control authorities informing of the food establishment operation. After filing the notification, food inspectors may visit to provide advice and instructions or supervise the operation if necessary. As a rule, such operations are subject to the same requirements as other food premises.
Due to the ongoing state of emergency, however, the food premises notification need not be filed until four weeks after starting the operation. The operation can start immediately after filing the notification.
Why are there plexiglass screens at checkouts in some grocery stores?
The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (TTL) has issued instructions on avoiding infection in customer service situations, including installing plexiglass. The instructions are available on the TTL website. The instructions issued by TTL apply to all service sectors that involve close contact with customers, not only grocery stores. Finnish Institute of Occupational Health instructions for service sectors.
Can the COVID-19 coronavirus be transmitted through surfaces or utensils?
In most cases, the virus transmits between people through droplets in close contact. The virus may last on surfaces, and infection is possible also through contact with surfaces such as door handles or utensils that have been contaminated by droplets coughed by an infected person. However, this is not considered to be the main mode of transmission. For more information on enhanced cleaning of customer premises, visit the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health website.
Surfaces touched by customers (door handles, railings, chairs, tables, payment terminals, toilet and bathroom facilities, etc.) must be cleaned carefully and as often as possible. Buttons and handles that come into contact with customers must be cleaned more frequently than normal.
More information: Regional State Administrative Agencies
Can pick 'n' mix sweets be packed into bags on store premises?
Pick 'n' mix sweets can be packed into bags for sale to customers in grocery stores. Bagging sweets can be performed by food industry employees, such as the store’s staff or the sweet manufacturer’s employees. The following issues should be kept in mind when bagging sweets:
- include the activity in self-monitoring
- remember good hand hygiene
- bagging sweets should be done in the store’s back room using clean utensils
- bag sweets from containers that have not been out in the pick 'n' mix counter and within reach of customers
- take steps to prevent contamination by allergens
- when bagging sweets for immediate sale to speed up and facilitate sales, give the following information on the bag: name of the food, ingredients, country of origin (if other than Finland) and necessary instructions on use and storage. It is also possible to provide the information verbally if it is indicated by a sign or similar manner in the vicinity of the non-prepacked items that the information is provided by staff upon request.
- when bagging sweets for non-immediate sales, all mandatory labelling (in Finnish) on the sweets must be provided to customers.
Things for restaurants to consider if they deliver prepacked lunches or other ready meals to be sold in stores or over store's service counters
- If a food establishment's operations change, they should consult the following instructions from the Finnish Food Authority and contact their municipality’s food control authority
- Restaurants can deliver meals and food to stores for sale. Supplying foods containing animal products must comply with the quantitative limits set in Regulation 318/2021 27 § (maa- ja metsätalousministeriön asetus elintarvikehygieniasta).
- Particular attention should be given to temperature control:
- If the food is delivered to the store cold, the food must be refrigerated at the restaurant to +6 degrees within four hours, and the food must remain cold until it reaches the consumer.
- If the food is delivered to the store heated, food temperature must remain at least +60 degrees at all times until the food reaches the consumer.
- It should be noted that reliefs on regulations on food labelling that were applied during the Corona pandemic have been removed since the beginning of 2021.
- Name of the food
- List of ingredients with emphasis on ingredients and products causing allergies and intolerances (in Finnish)
- The quantities of specific ingredients or groups of ingredients (where appropriate, but usually where the consumer's choices are relevant, e.g., The meat content of meat balls, quantity of fish in fish soup)
- Content quantity (= weight)
- Maximum shelf life (best before date) or expiry date
- Name, business name or auxiliary business name and address of the food business operator
- Country of origin or place of provenance (country of origin of meat such as beef, pork, lamb, goat, or poultry)
- Storage instructions (if necessary) (e.g., perishable foods should not be stored above 6 degrees)
- User guide (if applicable)
- Nutritional information (optional)
- Foods prepared in restaurant premises but which are delivered to a store for sale to consumers are considered to be prepacked foods (sales units).
- The following information must be provided on prepacked foods:
In addition, if necessary:
- Batch code (if the product label has a date that indicates to the nearest day and month, it replaces the batch code), and on ready meals, a declaration on the salt content if the level of salt is more than 1.2% by weight.
Mandatory labelling on prepacked foods must be provided in Finnish and Swedish for food sold or delivered in a bilingual municipality.
- If a restaurant sells non-prepacked food to be sold at a store service counter where the food is dispensed from the container that the food was delivered in, the store must be informed of at least the following:
- Name of the food
- Ingredients (including ingredients causing allergies or intolerances (in Finnish))
- Necessary instructions for use and storage
- Sales times for products should be kept short (max. date of manufacture + two days thereafter) unless the restaurant has commissioned shelf life studies for the food.
- If food is sold to consumers at a service counter by the store’s staff, the minimum requirement is to include a sign near the counter instructing customers to “ask a member of staff about allergens and other information”. Staff members must be able to provide consumers with the food’s name, list of ingredients, including ingredients that cause allergies and intolerances, the country of origin if necessary, and instructions on use and storage.
- Things to note about packaging materials
- Only packaging materials that are suitable for contact with food should be used. Packaging suitable for food contact can, for example, have a cup and fork symbol to indicate compatibility with food products, or their suitability for food use is stated in the name of the packaging material or elsewhere on the label.
- Packaging materials must be stored in a protected and a clean space.
Can restaurants deliver food to customers by private car?
Restaurants may use private cars in personal use to deliver food as long as this does not pose a risk to food safety. Food must be packed in clean storage containers or dishes for transport. When transporting food that must be cooled or heated during storage, a clean polystyrene container, cool box or similar means should be used to ensure correct food temperature during transport. It is also recommended to protect the storage containers and dishes during transport with a clean cover, such as a protective cloth, tarpaulin or similar.
How should employees take care of hygiene when working in premises used for handling food?
When working at a food establishment, it is particularly important that hands are washed with water and soap thoroughly and frequently. Avoid touching your face. Always wash hands after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. Follow the Finnish Food Authority’s instructions on washing hands. Be sure to also read the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare’s handwashing instructions.
Remember to only handle food, cooking utensils and serving dishes with clean, healthy hands.
Using disposable gloves when handling food
The purpose of protective gloves is to protect food from dirt and microbes passed on by touch. Gloves are often used to cover the hands when handling food. If protective gloves are used, their hygiene must be ensured and the gloves must be disposed and replaced sufficiently often, particularly to prevent cross-contamination. Protective gloves must be used particularly when handling non-prepacked food if you have an infected wound in your hand or use artificial nails or jewellery. Regardless of whether protective gloves are used, you should wash hands regularly.
If you do not have access to your usual type of disposable glove and need to switch to a new product, be sure to check that the new gloves are suitable for their intended use in handling food. The suitability of disposable gloves for their intended use should be ensured particularly if the gloves are used to handle greasy and/or hot foods. To check whether the gloves can be used in handling food, see the print on the packaging or look for a symbol of a wine glass and a fork. The packaging should also indicate if there are limitations on use of the gloves for handling food, such as the characteristics of the food being handled or limits on contact time. The law requires that the packaging for vinyl PVC gloves not suitable for handling greasy foods must include the disclaimer “not suitable for handling greasy food” or an equivalent phrase. However, as the labelling of vinyl gloves is often incomplete in this respect, you should check suitability with the supplier when necessary.
Good food hygiene must always be followed in food production in order to ensure that the food is safe, healthy and clean. Employees may not come in sick even when only experiencing minor flu symptoms. All members of staff should be reminded of good hygiene practices at work. Any temporary workers should also be trained on workplace hygiene. Your occupational healthcare provider is responsible for instructions related to employees’ health.
When can a food industry worker returning from abroad return to work at a restaurant?
The Government has decreed that Finnish citizens and permanent residents returning from abroad are instructed to remain in quarantine-like conditions for two weeks. Employees returning from abroad must agree on the date of returning to work and the two-week absence with their employer.
In other words, restaurant workers coming back from abroad cannot work in a restaurant for two weeks after returning to Finland.