Our organization works with delivery / provision of food and drinks, are we at more risk of additional liability during the coronavirus outbreak? If so, what additional precautions should we take?
According to the WHO, it is highly unlikely that people can contract COVID-19 from food or food packaging. This is because COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and the primary transmission route is through person-to-person contact and through direct contact with respiratory droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
However, the following potential additional risks/liability may still arise arise during the COVID-19 outbreak:
- Infringement of the Food Business Regulation in relation to the protection of food from risk of contamination – Every person engaged in any food business must take all steps reasonably necessary to protect the food from the risk of contamination or deterioration.
- Claim of negligence – Food retailer generally owes a duty of care to its ultimate consumers and has responsibility to ensure that food sold is safe and fit for human consumption.
- Contractual claim – The Sales of Good Ordinance (Cap. 26) states that there is an implied condition that the food sold is of merchantable quality and is reasonably fit for consumption. If the food retailer handles food in an unhygienic way, leading to food contamination, it may have breached thisimplied condition and, therefore, be liable for loss.
Examples of additional precautions that can be taken can be found in the following leaflets published by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department:
- “Food Safety and Hygiene Advisory for Food Premises on the Prevention of COVID-19“;
- “Food Safety Advice on Prevention of COVID-19 and FAQs“; and
- “Precautions for Food Delivery Agents on the Prevention of COVID-19“.
The WHO has also provided comprehensive guidelines as to measures that can allow food workers to limit the spread of COVID-19, with measures such as the use of disposable gloves, physical distancing in the workplace, delivery staff not leaving their vehicles during delivery, or properly sanitizing before passing delivery, use of disposable containers and packaging etc.