Retail Food Establishment Health Guidelines


Below is health information and guidelines pertaining to the COVID-19 outbreak for retail food establishments.

Food Products & Food Facilities

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is food imported to the United States from China and other countries affected by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), at risk of spreading COVID-19? 
A: Currently, there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there are no reported cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods.

Q: Are food products produced in the United States a risk for the spread of COVID-19?
A: There is no evidence to suggest that food produced in the United States can transmit COVID-19.

Q: Can I get sick with COVID-19 from touching food, the food packaging, or food contact surfaces, if the coronavirus was present on it?
A: Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. Like other viruses, it is possible that the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on surfaces or objects. For that reason, it is critical to follow the 4 key steps of food safety—clean, separate, cook, and chill.

Q: Can I get COVID-19 from a food worker handling my food?
A: Currently, there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. However, the virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading from person-to-person in some communities in the U.S. The CDC recommends that if you are sick, stay home until you are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others.  

Anyone handling, preparing and serving food should always follow safe food handling procedures, such as washing hands and surfaces often

Q: Should food workers who are ill stay home?
A: CDC recommends that employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4° F [37.8° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants). Employees should notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick. We recommend that businesses review CDC’s interim guidance for businesses and employers for planning and responding to coronavirus disease. Also see the FDA’s Retail Food Protection: Employee Health and Personal Hygiene Handbook.

Q: Should food facilities (grocery stores, manufacturing facilities, restaurants, etc.) perform any special cleaning or sanitation procedures for COVID-19?
A: CDC recommends routine cleaning of all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label. CDC does not recommend any additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning at this time.  

View the EPA-registered disinfectant products on the Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 list that have qualified under EPA’s emerging viral pathogen program for use against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.  

Restaurants and retail food establishments are regulated at the state and local level. State, local, and tribal regulators use the Food Code published by the FDA to develop or update their own food safety rules. Generally, FDA-regulated food manufacturers are required to maintain clean facilities, including, as appropriate, clean and sanitized food contact surfaces, and to have food safety plans in place.   Food safety plans include a hazards analysis and risk-based preventive controls and include procedures for maintaining clean and sanitized facilities and food contact surfaces. See: FSMA Final Rule for Preventive Controls for Human Food.

Q: Since restaurant workers and other service industry employees have ongoing contact with the public, are there any special precautions these workers should take to avoid becoming sick with a respiratory illness, such as wearing masks?
A: CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Face masks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of face masks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone with COVID-19 in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

CDC recommends everyday preventive actions for everyone, including service industry workers and customers: 

Avoid close contact with people who are sick. 

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. 

Stay home when you are sick. 

Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. 

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. 

If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.


Q: Do customers need to wear masks if they are in the drive-thru?
A: Yes. Facilities should at least post signage informing customers to wear masks, as the distance between the employee and customer when paying/passing of food products through the drive-thru window does not maintain a 6-ft distance. However, the order only states that the facility deny entry to customers not wearing masks. Since the drive-thru customer is in their own vehicle which is not part of the food facility, and they are not ‘entering’ the facility, there is no mandate that the facility refuse to provide the customer’s order to them if they are not wearing a mask.

Q: Do facilities need to install plexiglass at the drive-thru since there are registers there?
A: No, as long as the drive thru window remains closed at all times and is only opened far enough to collect payment and distribute products to the customer. Facilities should encourage electronic and online orders.


Q: Do employees have to stand outside and manage lines?
A: Floor markers and visual reminders to maintain social distancing of 6-feet between customers (aside from families) should be posted throughout the store. Occupancy must be limited to 50% of the Certificate of Occupancy for the building. If lines exceed 50% capacity or customers are not maintaining social distancing, then an employee may be required to stand outside to manage entrance.  If lines are expected routinely, then visual markers and/or markers on the ground should probably be considered.


Q: Does temperature taking only apply to people who tested positive previously or for everyone?
A: Temperature checks are required to be implemented once a facility has a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19.  At that point all employees must have temperature checks prior to starting their shift regardless if they have tested positive. If an employee has a fever that exceed 100.4°F or experiences symptoms, they should not be allowed to work.

Q: Do facilities need to record temperatures daily after they are taken?
A: The Order does not require this.

Q: How long do facilities need to take temperatures? 
A: Until the Order is lifted by the Governor and/or Secretary of Health

Q: Where can employees take their temperatures? 
A: Employees should not be taking their own temperatures.  The facility should have a management or health care professional taking the temperatures.  The Order does not require a specific location, just that it be done prior to allowing the employee to start work.

Governor’s Notice of Emergency Prohibition of Dine-In
Service at Retail Food Facilities

Bureau of Food Safety and Laboratory Services

This information provides notice to owners and operators of retail food facilities located within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania regarding the immediate emergency requirement that retail food facilities temporarily cease dine-in service for patrons and only offer food or beverages on a carry-out, delivery or drive-through basis

This emergency requirement is imposed as a public health and public safety measure in response to the COVID-19 presence in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the United States. This temporary requirement for retail food facilities is established by Order of the Governor, titled Order of the Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania regarding the Closure of all Businesses that are not Life Sustaining, issued and effective March 19, 2020. 

Any retail food facility within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania must close its dine-in facilities as of 8:00 p.m. on March 19, 2020, and may not otherwise offer food or beverages for consumption on the premises – including both indoor and outdoor areas of the facility. Retail food facilities may continue to offer carry-out, delivery and drive-through food or beverages to their customers. 

Retail food facilities offering carry-out, delivery, or drive-through food or beverages must employ social distancing best practices and other mitigation measures to protect workers and patrons. 

This temporary emergency requirement will be enforced. Failure to adhere to this requirement may result in: (1) the suspension or revocation of the retail food facility license by the Department of Agriculture or other retail food facility licensor; (2) citations, fines or other enforcement action by the Pennsylvania Department of Health; (3) license actions, fines and penalties by the Pennsylvania State Police, Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (where the retail food facility is also licensed to sell alcoholic beverages); and (4) other sanctions authorized under the Governor’s authority to deal with the current emergency. 

The Department of Agriculture is prepared to immediately suspend the retail food facility license of any retail food facility that fails to comply with this temporary emergency requirement. This action is authorized under the Retail Food Facility Safety Act (at 3 Pa.C.S. § 5903(i)(2)(i)).