Food and drinks

Last Updated: 29 Oct 2020 11:38am

Food safety

COVID-19 isn’t a foodborne illness. However, safe handling and preparation of food will help reduce the chance of picking up the illness through touching surfaces which have the virus on them. By being extra careful in following food safety advice you can help prevent the spread of disease.

Advice for when shopping and preparing food

  • Wipe your shopping trolley down. Use in-store wipes provided, or take your own.
  • Try not to touch your face when shopping for food and in other public places.
  • Wash hands with soap and water after shopping and before preparing food.
  • Use a hand sanitiser after leaving the store.
  • Wash fruit and vegetables under running water before eating.
  • You don’t need to use soap. This is usual food safety advice.
  • Cooking food makes it safe. Heat will kill germs.

Keeping safe at home

  • Before and after meals thoroughly clean food preparation surfaces like kitchen benches.
  • Wash hands before preparing food for yourself and others. Wash hands before and after eating.
  • Do not prepare food for others if you are unwell. This is important all the time to prevent the spread of germs.
  • Do not eat or share food with people who are unwell with COVID-19. This helps reduce risk of spreading the virus.

How the virus spreads

The virus most likely spreads through:

  • close contact with an infectious person
  • contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze (if you are within 1.5 metres or two large steps of an infected person)
  • touching objects or surfaces (like doorknobs, sink taps and tables) that have cough or sneeze droplets from an infected person, and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.


Drinking water supplied by TasWater is safe to drink. Disinfection processes for drinking water are designed and operated to manage pathogens, such as viruses. Conventional disinfection applied to inactivate the most resistant viruses will also inactivate COVID-19. No additional treatment is required and there is no evidence to suggest that the COVID-19 virus is transmitted through drinking water. The safety of drinking water supplied to Tasmanians by TasWater is regulated by the Department of Health under a comprehensive legislative framework to ensure a consistent, reliable supply of safe, good quality drinking water.

Where a reticulated drinking water supply is available, this is the best and safest option. There is no need to buy bottled water. Water supply is an essential service and TasWater will continue to work with the Department to ensure that safe drinking water is delivered to your home at all times. Should the quality of your water change, then you will be advised about any restrictions on the safe use of your water. This is unlikely to occur and if it does, then it would not be COVID-19 related.

For more information see the Water Research Australia fact sheet for COVID-19.

Public drinking water fountains and bottle fill stations

Public drinking water supplies are safe to drink, however the surfaces around the fountain including the spout, button/leaver and nozzles could pose a risk for the transmission of COVID-19 and other germs.

  • Don’t place your mouth on the spout of the fountain or allow your water bottle to come into contact with the nozzle when refilling.
  • Test the water flow and let the water flow for 10 seconds to allow for fresh, clean water to come through prior to drinking.
  • If the fountain requires you to push a button or lever, clean the surface before and after, or use your elbow.
  • Clean your hands afterwards with an alcohol-based rub or wash them with soap and water.

The Department of Health will advise asset owners and managers carry out more frequent cleaning of drinking water fountains.

Drinking water safety

With the easing of restrictions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, many facilities and services are starting to operate again; albeit in a reduced fashion. It is important to consider the safety of drinking water in buildings you manage and/or own.

Stagnant water is known to accumulate heavy metals over time to the point that the water does not meet the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines safe limits.

Public Health advises as part of regular maintenance, all outlets used for drinking water are flushed for at least five minutes to ensure fresh water from the mains supply is drawn through and safe for consumption. This is essential in buildings that have been wholly unoccupied or partially unoccupied during the restrictions.

This advice applies to managers/owners of multi-storey office buildings, hotels, accommodation and holiday shacks. For further information, contact the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738.

What about reusable coffee cups provided by the customer?

Reusable cups provided by customers (commonly known as keep cups) have not been banned or prohibited.

Food businesses can still accept ‘keep cups’ if they choose to. Always check the cups are clean and not likely to cause cross-contamination and don’t accept/use a cup if it is unclean. It is also a good idea to get the customer to retain/hold onto the lid. Baristas should be mindful of the need to wash their hands frequently when preparing coffee and other drinks.