Direct sales to consumers

The production activities of agricultural and food processing businesses are given priority.

These companies, in addition to permanent or seasonal farmers’ markets, can continue direct sales to consumers. They must implement the precautionary measures and public health guidelines for COVID-19.

Permitted sales activities:

  • permanent or seasonal farmers’ markets;
  • shops or farm stands located on or outside production sites, including self-service farm stands;
  • farm u-pick;
  • product distribution at delivery points.

Activities complementary to direct sales to consumers

Food services can be offered at public markets, stands, shops, and delivery points, as well as during u-pick activities. However, there are different public health measures to be implemented based on the zone designated by public health authorities. In red zones, indoor and outdoor food courts must be closed.

In addition, for businesses in a red zone, it is not advisable to:

  • offer tastings to consumers;
  • provide access to or set up play areas for children;
  • host activities that could encourage gatherings.

Guides to Implementing Recommended Preventative Measures

To complete the information, you will find detailed precautionary measures and ways to implement them in these four guides adapted to business reality.

Measures required by public health authorities take precedence over the information in these guides. Please review the additional health measures to be implemented according to the alert level in your area This hyperlink will open in a new window.. Contact your regional public health director This hyperlink will open in a new window. if you have any questions.

Precautionary measures to be adopted

Precautionary measures are to be implemented in farmers’ markets, farm stands and shops, u-pick activities and delivery points.

Access to famers’ market, farm stands, shops, u-pick locations and delivery points

Ask customers experiencing cough, fever, or respiratory problems to postpone their purchases.

Ideally, an employee who can give instructions and guide customers should be present at the entrance of the market, while maintaining the minimum distance recommended by public health authorities.

Physical distancing

The minimum distance recommended by public health authorities must be maintained between all people, customers and workers, in all shops, farmers’ markets, stands, u-pick locations and delivery points.

Here are the ways to achieve this:

  • Limit the number of customers in the establishment at the same time and waiting in line;
  • Add markers to the ground or walls (lines, stickers, cones, wooden structures, etc.) to indicate the minimum distance recommended by public health authorities to be maintained between customers in the lines, at the check-out and at the entrance;
  • Install signs or posters to remind customers of the physical distancing measures to be observed (at the entrance and in the line);
  • If necessary, designate a person responsible for ensuring that people wait outside sales areas. However, this person will have to keep the minimum distance from the customers as recommended by public health authorities. Contact the police (911) if necessary.

If it is not possible to keep the recommended distance between customers and staff at check-outs, install physical separation (transparent solid partitions). In cases where this would not be possible due to the large number of customers that may be in the vicinity of the check-outs in a day, it is recommended that staff wear a quality medical procedure mask and eye protection (glasses with side protection or a visor covering the face from forehead to chin).

If you have indoor or outdoor food courts in an orange, yellow or green zone:

  • During the summer, the use of outdoor food courts should be encouraged as much as possible;
  • Premises including specifically patios and picnic tables, must be arranged so that the minimum distance recommended by public health authorities is maintained between tables unless separated by a physical barrier to limit contagion. This may involve reducing the capacity, depending on the availability of space.
  • Physical barriers between the tables could be considered. Benches can also be a physical barrier between customers. These benches should be at a height above the customers’ heads when they are seated.
  • Only those seated at a table can receive service.
  • A maximum of 6 people can sit at the same table.
  • Customers who do not live in the same private residence or its substitute must be seated at the minimum distance recommended by public health authorities or must be separated by transparent partitions.

It is not advisable to offer tastings when the business is located in a red zone. For other zones, if you offer tastings, make sure to maintain sufficient distance between people at all times and in all places (as recommended by public health authorities).

Employee and customer hygiene

Prevent customers from having access to staff washrooms.

Employees and merchants must have access to warm running water and soap to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds, which is the best method of hand hygiene. Otherwise, use a hand sanitizer gel (with at least 60% alcohol).

Be sure to:

Apply hand hygiene measures:

  • Wash hands frequently, especially after handling money, when arriving and leaving work, after touching surfaces that are frequently touched (switches, door handles, microwaves, stair railings, etc.), before and after breaks and meals, when using the washroom, when entering and exiting elevators;
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands.

Comply with and promote good hygiene and respiratory etiquette (cough or sneeze into a folded elbow or tissue, discard tissue, wash hands as soon as possible).

Handling merchandise and money

  • Limit, but do not refuse, hand-to-hand exchanges (money, cheque, credit card, loyalty card, etc.). Prefer contactless payments by card or cell phone, ideally on fixed terminals that do not have to be handled. Customers should avoid touching terminal buttons and use a contactless payment instead. Terminals should be disinfected regularly.
  • Avoid handling customer credit cards or cell phones.
  • Promote and facilitate hand hygiene as often as possible (ideally after each customer if there has been contact with money, a card or the terminal handled by the customer), using a hand sanitizer gel with at least 60% alcohol. As an alternative, a moist soapy cloth that is readily available at the workstation can be used, placed in an open, leak-proof container and changed regularly. Workers must have access to soap and running water, which is the best method of hand hygiene.

For food courts and stands offering food for on-site consumption located in an orange, yellow or green zone:

  • Customers may not serve themselves directly from a buffet or a self-service cutlery, food or beverage counter;
  • Remove seasonings (e.g., salt, sugar, oil, spices) and all other objects used by customers, as well as any other non-essential items from the tables;
  • Ideally, an employee who can give instructions and guide customers should be present at the entrance, while maintaining the recommended distance.

It is not advisable to offer tastings no matter what zone you are in. However, if you plan to offer tastings:

  • Do not offer product tasting trays in self-service;
  • Offer a tasting portion at the request of customers only; 
  • Wash your hands frequently (soapy water or hand sanitizer gel), especially before preparing a tasting and after each customer;
  • Provide people with a hand sanitizer gel (with at least 60% alcohol);
  • Avoid touching the food offered for tasting. Promote the manipulation of portions with instruments, such as tongs;  
  • If the format of the tasting allows it, serve the portion directly in a disposable container, on a paper towel or with a toothpick (without making them freely available to customers);
  • Clean surfaces regularly.

Cleaning and disinfecting

The following precautionary measures are recommended:

  • Disinfect the area where the customer has touched the shopping or transport cart if such carts are available to customers.
  • Keep payment terminals clean. Ideally, clean several times a day using standard products and whenever the terminal is visibly soiled. Ensure that the disinfectant or cleaning agent is appropriate for the terminal according to the supplier’s recommendations. Note that a polyethylene covering the terminal keys makes them easy to clean.
  • Clean the sanitary facilities at each shift and disinfect them at least once a day.
  • Wash clothing that is worn at the market, stand or delivery point after each working day, using the hot water setting appropriate for these items and the usual detergent, according to the cleaning product manufacturer’s instructions. These items do not need to be washed separately from other clothing. Ensure proper drying. Avoid shaking soiled clothing.

For food courts and stands offering food service for on-site consumption, which is permitted in orange, yellow or green zones:

  • Disinfect objects or equipment shared between customers (e.g., tables, chairs, menus). A time for disinfection must be provided between services;
  • Wash and sanitize dishes and utensils used by customers according to the standard methods recommended by the ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation;
  • The use of non-manipulable menus (menus on slate, on external panels, online, etc.) is recommended.

For the offer of product tasting:

  • Clean surfaces regularly.

If an employee develops symptoms

Keep the number of workers present on-site to the absolute minimum necessary.

If an employee or merchant begins to experience symptoms during working hours, make him wear a procedure mask This hyperlink will open in a new window. and isolate them in a room set aside for that purpose. Call 1-877-644-4545 for instructions. The symptomatic person should consult the Self-Care Guide This hyperlink will open in a new window. for more details. Leave a copy of the hard copy guide in the isolation room.

People who have been in contact with the symptomatic person should self-monitor their symptoms while waiting for public health instructions and call 1-877-644-4545 if they develop symptoms. Follow the INSPQ guidelines This hyperlink will open in a new window. for cleaning and disinfecting isolation rooms. Read the document Guidance for Industry: What to do when someone tests positive for COVID-19 in a food establishment (PDF 166 Kb).

Anxiety and depression associated with COVID-19

The current COVID-19 pandemic is a special and unusual context. It is normal to experience fear, stress, anxiety or depression.

Ways to improve your situation include being well informed, taking care of yourself and seeking help when needed.

Here are some useful phone numbers for help:

  • Association québécoise de prévention du suicide: 1 866 APPELLE (277-3553)
  • Info-Social (free and confidential telephone consultation service): 811
  • Au Cœur des familles agricoles (an organization providing front-line services, including field workers, producers and their families): 1 450 768-6995
  • Programme d’aide pour les agriculteurs (PAPA) set up by the Union des producteurs agricoles (allows producers and their families easy access to psychological, social and physical services):
    Phone : 1 833 368-8301
    Website: Programme d’aide pour les agriculteurs (PAPA) This hyperlink will open in a new window.


The terms of this guide may need to be revised if the public health measures that have been ordered or recommended by the governments of Québec or Canada need to be modified based on how the situation evolves.