Restoring Safe Services

Guidance to Retail Food and Grocery Stores

NEW Last updated: July 27, 2020

Retail food and grocery stores play an essential service to ensure safe and reliable access to food, supplies and other provisions are available to everyone.

As Manitoba continues efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, it is crucial that everyone - including the grocery and retail sector - adjust how they operate to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19. This document outlines key steps and provides precautions to be taken by stores to protect workers' and the public's health.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, retail food and grocery stores may remain open, but the operator of the store must implement measures to ensure that customers attending the facility are reasonably able to maintain a separation of at least two metres between themselves, other customers and staff. It is also important to ensure that physical distancing is maintained for customers waiting to enter the facility and standing in line outside.


On this page:




To help prevent COVID-19 virus transmission, operators of retail food and grocery stores should

  • Enhance the store's sanitation plan and schedule. Check that the disinfectant used in the store is appropriate for elimination of viruses. Increase cleaning and disinfection of commonly contacted areas such as:
    • doorknobs
    • cooler and freezer handles
    • till conveyances
    • keyboards
    • scales
    • bathroom surfaces
    • countertops
    • PIN pads
    • self-pay stations
    • hand baskets
    • light switches
  • Remember that common touch areas include those in both customer and employee accessed areas. These surfaces need to be cleaned and disinfected at least twice a day, or as needed using:
    • diluted household bleach i.e. 20 ml (4 teaspoons) bleach for every litre of water
    • alcohol solutions with at least 60 per cent alcohol or
    • Health Canada approved household disinfectants

A list of disinfectants can be found on Health Canada's website.

  • Ensure staff are practicing proper hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette including:
    • washing hands often with soap and water for at least 15 to-20 seconds
    • using hand sanitizer when hands are not visibly dirty and handwashing isn't available
    • only using hand sanitizer approved by Health Canada (DIN or NPN number)
    • avoiding touching one's face, mouth, nose and eyes
    • coughing or sneezing into a tissue, then immediately disposing of the tissue and washing one's hands. If a tissue is not available, coughing or sneezing into one's elbow, not hands.

Posters available for download:

  • Ensure employee and public washrooms are always well stocked with liquid soap and paper towels and that warm running water is available. Garbage bins should be emptied frequently. Liquid soap is effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
  • Post signs at the entrance and at each check out counters indicating no customer packaging (e.g., containers, reusable bags, or boxes) are to be placed on checkout counters. Provide clean carry-out bags for purchased food and grocery products. Store clerks should not handle re-usable bags; only plastic bags. Customers who bring their own containers or bags need to pack their own purchases.
  • For bulk food items, it is recommended that staff should continue to dispense bulk food items from behind counters, to limit customer hand contact with foods and food containers.
  • For the bulk bakery items, such as buns, bagels and doughnuts etc. they can be self-served if the retail store provides single use paper tissues for customers to use to handle food items. Where there is limited handling of the exterior of the food bins, ensure frequent cleaning and sanitizing of these common touched surfaces by employees.
  • Gravity feed food bins can be used where there is limited touching of the bin and with increased frequency of cleaning and sanitizing of surfaces by employees.
  • Self-service beverage counters, which are touchless or limited/one touch button, can be used where the cups, lids and straws are provided to the customer for direct self-fill. At this time cups, lids and straws are not to be in self-service dispensers. Ensure frequent cleaning and sanitizing by employees.
  • Handwashing stations or hand sanitizer should be provided by the retail store in all areas where bulk food bins or self-service of beverages are provided.
  • No buffet style or self-service is to be allowed where a common utensil is used for self-service, such as salad and olive bars, self-serve soup stations, hot dog roller grills and other similar buffet food service.
  • Discontinue all food sampling activities.
  • Place hand sanitizer with a minimum of 60 per cent alcohol in dispensers near doors, pay stations and other high-touch locations for customers and staff use. Hand sanitizers should be approved by Health Canada and have a DIN or NPN. If providing a hand sanitizer, use single-use disposable containers and pumps. If using re-usable containers and pumps, ensure they are cleaned and sanitized before uses. When refilling clean containers with hand sanitizer, ensure good hygiene practices are followed and being refilled in clean work areas. Find more information on reusing hand sanitizer containers on Health Canada's website at: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/disinfectants/covid-19/information-manufacturers.html#hand
  • As an alternative, the use of portable hand wash stations may be used at entrances to facilities. However, these hand wash stations must be regularly maintained to ensure supplies such as liquid soap, paper towels and water does not run out. Waste bins for used paper towels etc. also need to be emptied and maintained, as required.
  • Make wipes and trash bins available for wiping down shopping carts and disposing of the wipes.
  • Use physical queue line controls such as crowd control cordons at entrances, check out lines and lines outside the store entrance. Place markers such as tape or cones every two metres to provide customers with visible queues that support physical distancing. Stores should mark "One-Way Lanes" to help guide the flow of traffic through store aisles.
  • Make announcements at regular intervals over store speaker reminding customers to maintain a minimum two-metre distance between themselves and others.
  • Place signs in multiple locations that indicate the maximum number of customers and staff a store can accommodate at any one time.
  • Monitor the number of customers and staff entering and leaving the store. Once the maximum number of persons for a store is reached, allow one person in for every person that leaves.
  • Have staff observe checkout and self-pay stations for crowd gatherings and remind customers to physically distance as they wait to check out.
  • Offer online or telephone food and grocery orders with delivery or pick up services as alternatives to shopping in person.
  • Sanitize high-touch surfaces such as pay stations, bagging areas and carts or hand baskets between each customer and use and encourage tap payment or PIN pad use.
  • Limit the handling of credit cards and loyalty cards wherever possible, by allowing customers to scan. (Note: There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 can be passed on to others by touching or handling cash.)
  • Employees who handle cash or credit cards should practice proper hand hygiene. When hands are not visibly soiled and between customer interactions, hand sanitizer can be used. Employees should wash their hands with soap and water when hands are visibly soiled, before and after any breaks, at the beginning and end of their shift, and before preparing food.
  • Should operators and employees choose to use gloves, ensure thorough hand washing before and after each change of gloves.
  • Greet all customers and ask customers who arrive with cold, influenza, or COVID-19 like symptoms to return home and use a delivery service instead.
  • Workplaces are encouraged to have plans in place for increased worker absences due to illness or isolation. Workplaces should have a workplace illness policy. If policies do not exist or are not in line with COVID-19 recommendations, workplaces should ensure the following:
    • Ensure staff with cold, influenza, or COVID-19 like symptoms such as sore throat, fever, sneezing, and coughing remain at home.
    • A COVID-19 self-assessment screening tool can help determine if illness may be COVID-19. The tool provides ill workers with next steps depending on responses. This tool can be found at www.manitoba.ca/covid19 .
    • If an employee leaves work due to illness, their work areas should be cleaned and disinfected.

Visit Health Canada for more information about food safety and how to keep you and your family safe during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.




General advice about COVID-19 and for those who experience cold, influenza, or flu-like symptoms

  • Personal Health - If you or someone you know is experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms (fever, cough or breathing issues), use the online self-assessment tool to determine if you should contact Health Links-Info Santé (204-788-8200 or toll free at 1-888-315-9257) or seek medical advice from your health care practitioner
  • Online Updates - Due to the evolving nature of COVID-19, visit www.manitoba.ca/covid19 for up-to-date information on a variety of subjects, including public health orders, testing information and self-isolation.
  • Inquiry Lines - business-related inquiries can be directed to an interactive website at www.engagemb.ca. Click on the COVID-19 link, and ask a question and someone will email you a response. You can also contact the Manitoba Government Inquiry Line at 204-945-3744, or 1-866-MANITOBA (1-866-626-4862).

Employers should reassess their work environment every day and keep updated with the information posted on www.manitoba.ca/covid19/updates/index.html