Have any restrictions been enacted in relation to the promotion / commercial communication around food and beverages?
No, but in practice many discounts/promotions seem to have been curtailed to avoid customers bulk-buying.
There are not any new restrictions in relation to the promotions/commercial communications for food and beverages in the UK. The ASA does however provide guidance on where advertisements will be 'problematic'. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is the UK’s independent advertising regulator. The ASA makes sure ads across UK media stick to the advertising rules (the Advertising Codes). The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) is the sister organisation of the ASA and is responsible for writing the UK Advertising Codes.
ASA guidance states:
"Advertisers claiming that their food or supplement can help protect consumers from infection of coronavirus by, for example, supporting their immune system are likely to be problematic.
There are rules which limit the claims that can be made for these products to only those expressly listed as authorised on the EU Register of nutrition and health claims. Foods and supplements are also prohibited from making any claims to prevent, treat or cure human disease."
Additionally, the central principle of the CAP Code requires all marketing communications to be 'prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and society'; this of course has particular relevance at the moment.
Are food businesses (producers, importers, distributors) required to monitor their stocks/supplies availability and/or report them to the authorities, or have any other measures been taken in relation to food stocks/availability?
The Coronavirus Act 2020 contains a number of provisions relating to food supply. Persons in a food supply chain (or closely connected to a food supply chain) may be required to supply relevant information to the authorities, when this is necessary to establish whether there is disruption (or risk of disruption) to the food supply chain, and where the information has previously not been provided when requested (or false/misleading information was provided).
Most supermarkets have been limiting sales of certain items to a restricted number of items per customer (e.g. only 2 bags of flour per customer), although some of these restrictions are now being eased.
Have your national authorities restricted opening hours of food retail businesses?
No. Opening hours for food shops have not been restricted, although in practice many are operating under reduced opening hours.
With regard to England, The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Business Closure) (England) Regulations 2020 were passed on 21 March 2020, which requires the closure until further notice by the Secretary of State, of restaurants (including restaurants and dining rooms in hotels or members clubs); cafes (including workplace canteens, but not including cafes or canteens at a hospital, care home or school, prison and military canteens, or services providing food or drink to the homeless); bars, including bars in hotels or members’ clubs; etc.
Takeaways establishments and restaurants offering a pick-up service may continue to operate, subject to adhering to certain social distancing requirements.
Do food retailers have the obligation to implement social distancing measures and/or provide protective equipment (or other similar obligations)?
Yes, in terms of official Government guidelines. The social distancing measures depend on the nature of the establishment. However, general social distancing guidelines include:
- use additional signage to ask customers not to enter the shop if they have symptoms;
- regulate entry so that the premises do not become overcrowded;
- use floor markings inside the commercial spaces to facilitate compliance with the social distancing advice of 2 metres, particularly in the most crowded areas, such as serving counters and tills;
- use vertical signage to direct customers into lanes if feasible to facilitate movement within the premises while maintaining 2 metre distance;
- make regular announcements to remind customers to follow social distancing advice and clean their hands regularly;
- place plexi-glass barriers at tills and counters if feasible, as an additional element of protection for workers and customers;
- encourage the use of contactless payments where possible, without disadvantaging older or vulnerable customers; and
- provide additional pop-up handwashing stations or facilities if possible, providing soap, water and hand sanitizer.
In addition to the above, supermarkets must avoid crowding and create adequate spacing between individuals. Effective measures to support this will vary by store and location, but could include:
- monitoring the number of customers within store and limiting access to avoid congestion;
- implementing queue management systems to limit crowds gathering at entrances and maintain 2 metres distance; and
- reminding customers to only buy what they need.
Outdoor food/farmers markets
Local Authorities may decide to close these markets as part of actions taken to maintain social distancing. Where markets are still in operation, food market operators are required to consider how they can safely sell their products without encouraging crowds and ensure hygiene measures are in place. This can be done by:
- taking orders online or by telephone in advance and pre-packing orders to limit face-to-face time in the market; and
- considering delivery services if possible.
Takeaways and restaurants offering a pick-up service
For these services:
- no orders should be taken in person on the premises - this should be communicated to customers by appropriate means such as signage;
- businesses should therefore only take orders online or by telephone;
- customers could have staggered collection times - customers should be discouraged from entering the premises until their order is ready;
- customers arriving without having already placed an order should be encouraged to leave the premises to place their order by telephone or online and to return at a designated time for collection;
- customers whose orders are ready should enter one at a time to collect orders and make payments; and
- businesses should discourage crowding outside the premises. Where possible, use queue management systems to maintain 2 metres separation.
Have any other binding measures/policies been enacted to maintain the accessibility/availability of food for consumers that generate obligations on food businesses?
No, not specifically.
As previously mentioned, in the context of supermarkets, one of the guidelines provided includes reminding customers to only buy what they need, and individual shops have adopted various restrictions on bulk purchasing certain items.