New Mexico
Environment Department

Contact Information:
(505) 827-2855 MAIN // 1-800-219-6157 (toll free)
Environmental Emergencies:
505-827-9329 (24 hrs)

Food Program

COVID-19 Related Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve received many questions related to food establishment operations in regards to the  COVID-19 pandemic and the public health orders issued by the NM Health Secretary.  We put together the following list of common questions and answers as a tool to assist you in gaining quick answers frequently asked questions.  If you have a question that we have not answered, click here to submit it.

If you have a question that is not answered below, email us or ask us here.

1) Q: Are the number of employees I have working in my food establishment limited to 5 people due to the public health order?

A: No, you are not limited to 5 employees, but you must minimize your operations and staff to the greatest extent possible and ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that staff adhere to social distancing protocol and maintain at least six-foot social distancing from other individuals, avoid person-to-person contact, and direct employees to wash their hands frequently. Also, you must ensure all surfaces are cleaned and sanitized frequently.

Click here to access resources and information employee health requirements and resources.

Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19, including a fever, cough, runny nose and difficulty breathing, should call (855) 600-3453 for direction from the New Mexico Department of Health.

2) Q: Are customers still allowed inside by food establishment to order or pick-up an order?

A: Yes, but the number of customers allowed inside at any given time is limited to 5 or less.  We strongly encourage you, to the greatest extent possible, ensure social distancing of  at least six feet between customers waiting in line.  Also, if people are ordering, or are waiting for an order that is not ready, we strongly encourage you to have them return to their vehicle and provide curb-side delivery when the order is ready. You can download and print social distancing signage here.

3) Q: Can I continue to operate my food truck?

A: Yes, but we strongly encourage you, to the greatest extent possible, ensure social distancing of customers waiting in line.  Also, if people are ordering, or are waiting for an order that is not ready, we strongly encourage you to have them return to their vehicle and provide curb-side delivery or text them when the order is ready. You can download and print social distancing signage here.

4) Q: Are grocery stores limited to 5 customers inside at one time?

A: No, but we strongly encourage you, to the greatest extent possible, to ensure social distancing of employees and customers. You can download and print social distancing signage here.

5) Q: Who is responsible for enforcing the 5 customer rule?

A: The food establishment is.

6) Q: Can we take reusable containers to refill from customers?

A: While this is not prohibited, we strongly encourage you to suspend handling and/or refilling customer reusable containers (i.e. travel mugs and beer growlers).  Doing so will help further limit exposure of your employees and other customers served afterward.

7) Q: Are bulk food, self-service food dispensing units prohibited?

A: No, it is not specifically prohibited, but we strongly encourage all self-service practices be suspended and bulk items that are typically self-service be provided prepacked to customers.

8) Q: Are buffets and salad bars prohibited?

A: No, it is not specifically prohibited, but we strongly encourage all self-service practices be suspended at this time.  We strongly encourage you have employees prepare, package, and serve all food.

9) Q: Can we allow outdoor dining on our premises?

A: No, food establishments (including breweries and distillers) are limited to carry out or delivery only.

10) Q: If someone is suspected, or tests positive for Coronavirus, do I have to close?

A: NMED cannot require you to close, but we strongly encourage you to follow the  CDC recommendations for environmental cleaning and disinfecting, which includes closing off “areas used by the ill persons and wait as long as practical before beginning cleaning and disinfection to minimize potential for exposure to respiratory droplets. Open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the area. If possible, wait up to 24 hours before beginning cleaning and disinfection.”

11) Q: What can I do to help prevent Coronavirus in my restaurant (food establishment)?

A: The NMED Recommendations for Food Facilities (Spanish) and the following resources from our federal partners, will help you do what you can to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your food establishment:

FDA Q&A for Industry Members

CDC Fact Sheets (Print Resources)

CDC Handwashing Posters (Print Resources)

12) Q: If I want to start making hand sanitizer, what do I have to do?

A: Follow FDA’s policies and guidelines as follows:

Press Release

Temporary policy for preparation of alcohol-based hand sanitizer products during the public health emergency

Policy for temporary compounding of certain alcohol-based hand sanitizer products during the public health emergency

13) Q: Can we continue to serve prepackaged items from display cases?

A: Yes.

14) Q: Can a facility still do catering?

A: Yes.  Please remember to follow NM Dept. of Health and CDC guidelines for social distancing and the requirements of the NM Public Health Order, which requires you to minimize your operations and staff to the greatest extent possible and ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that staff adhere to social distancing protocol and maintain at least six-foot social distancing from other individuals, avoid person-to-person contact, and direct employees to wash their hands frequently. Also, you must ensure all surfaces are cleaned and sanitized frequently.

15) Q: Can a hotel still allow their guests to sit and have breakfast since they’re running at 50% capacity as it is?

A: No, the NM Public Health Order does not permit dining in a public area.  Guests can take their breakfast back to their room, or take it to go.

16) Q: Can I sell food to make money?

A: You must obtain a food establishment permit from NMED (or city of Albuquerque or Bernalillo County) to prepare and serve/sell food to the public.

17) Q: We are a convenience store, are we required to stop allowing self-serve food/beverage items like coffee out of coffee pots and hot dogs on a roller grill?

A: No, but NMED is strongly encouraging facilities to suspend these practices to help limit the spread of COVID-19.  It’s recommended that employees serve customers  food/beverage that is not prepackaged and offer single service condiments.

18) Q: I own a restaurant and want to sell extra raw meat and poultry I have, am I allowed to?

A: Yes, but you are required to provide a consumer advisory, just as you would on a menu or table tent in your restaurant.  In addition, the USDA requires safe handling instructions to be placed on raw meat and poultry packages.  NMED created the resource below to print and attach to each “package”.  Click on the image to download and print.  You cannot sell meat or poultry to another food establishment.

19) Q: Can individuals who live in facilities, such as nursing homes or long term care facilities, eat in the dining room?

A: Individuals who live in facilities are allowed to eat in dining rooms.  NMED strongly encourages facilities to maintain social distancing at all times, to the greatest extent possible, including while residents are dining.