Restaurants and stores

Restaurants to close nationwide

The Act on Accommodation and Restaurant Services has been amended temporarily. Customer premises in restaurants will be closed in areas where this is necessary to prevent the spread of the epidemic from 4 April 2020 until 31 May 2020. The Government has decreed that customer premises will be closed in restaurants nationwide.

To-go sales of ready meals to customers and food courier service providers from the restaurant premises will still be permitted. (31 March 2020)

The restaurants can therefore sell ready-to-eat food to customers. The customer is not allowed to portion out food from a buffet.

Staff canteens and workplace cafeterias allowed to stay open

The law does not apply to staff canteens where customers consist only of the employees of a company, foundation or institution or which otherwise restrict customers to a specific group of people. These types of restaurants include canteens at daycares, schools, hospitals and prisons and workplace cafeterias at industrial plants, for example.

Staff canteens do not include public lunch restaurants open to everyone, only canteens and cafeterias open only to the employees of a specific workplace.                        

(Updated 3 April 2020) When dining at a restaurant referred to above, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) general instructions on preventing infection must be followed.

  • Remind members of staff to wash hands carefully before meals
  • Place hand sanitizer dispensers at the start of buffet lines where possible
  • Where possible, organise staggered meal times and remind staff members of a safe social distance
  • Where possible, switch from self-service to portions served by the restaurant’s staff
  • In self-service buffets, replace or wash utensils with increased frequency or use disposable utensils where possible
  • Clean any surfaces that customers touch (including condiment shakers, butter knives, etc) with increased frequency
  • Patrons should keep as much distance as possible when dining 

Customer seating in kiosk and outdoor market sales

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment decides on restrictions on serving customers.

The Ministry has ruled that customers of cafés may not consume food or beverages in tables or in outdoor seating. Customers must exit the premises and consume the products elsewhere. This rule can also be applied to kiosk and outdoor market sales. When selling food and beverages to-go, care must be taken to prevent contact that could pose a risk of infection. When queueing, customers must be instructed to keep a sufficient social distance. Customer seating is not permitted in the vicinity of food or beverage service.

Questions and answers on the closure of restaurants in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment online service.

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.

Food handling and information to be provided on food

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.

Customer premises

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.

Utensils and non-packaged sales

Particular care should be given on utensils used by customers in sales outlets for non-prepacked items, for example. Utensils should be replaced and washed more frequently than normal. Where possible, disposable utensils or utensils that can be washed after each use should be used. Increased care should be given to washing dishes and dispensers used for serving. Hand sanitizer should be available to customers in the vicinity of the sales outlet.

In stores and sales outlets for non-prepacked items, particular attention should be given on instructing staff and customers on the importance of hand hygiene. At the seller’s discretion, sales of non-prepacked items may switch to over-the-counter sales or the packing of products by store staff or stopped entirely.

Depending on the situation and at their discretion, municipal food control authorities or may provide supplementary instructions or recommendations to the guidelines.

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.

What should I keep in mind if a restaurant delivers cooled and packed lunches or other meals to the store for sale on the shelf or over a service counter?

  • if the food establishment’s operations change, consult the following instructions by the Finnish Food Authority and contact your municipality’s food control authority.
  • During the state of emergency, restaurants can deliver meals and prepacked food to stores for sale without restrictions on volume.
  • Particular attention should be given to temperature regulation:
    • If the food is delivered to the store cold, the food must be refrigerated at the restaurant to +6°C in four hours, and the cold chain must remain unbroken up to the consumer
    • If the food is delivered to the store heated, food temperature must remain at least +60°C up until the food reaches the consumer
  • Things to note on product labelling:
    • If food is sold to consumers in prepacked meals, the packaging must contain all mandatory food labelling information, with the exception of the nutrition declaration. Information on allergens (inFinnish) must stand out clearly in the labelling.
    • If the restaurant has not carried out shelf life tests, the turnover time of products should be kept short (max. production day + two days after that) to ensure that food stays fresh.
    • 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”. If this is done, staff members must be able to provide consumers with the food’s name, list of ingredients, substances that cause allergies and intolerances, the country of origin if necessary, and instructions on use and storage.
  • Things to note about packaging materials
    • Select packaging materials that are suitable for contact with food. To find out whether a material is suitable for use with food, look for a wine glass and a fork symbol or consult the packaging material’s name or other written labelling.
    • Packaging materials must be stored in a sheltered and 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?

Hand hygiene

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.

Staff training

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.

Further information is available on the Finnish Institution of Occupational Health website

In other words, restaurant workers coming back from abroad cannot work in a restaurant for two weeks after returning to Finland.

 

Page last updated 4/28/2020