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Boil Water Notice and Food Businesses

What is a boil water notice?

A boil water notice is a formal notice issued to all properties in an area advising that drinking water from the public mains is not safe to drink unless it is boiled beforehand.

Do I need to boil the water I use in my food business?

You must boil any tap water that is used for:

  • food preparation
  • cleaning of surfaces, equipment, etc., that could come into contact with food or drink
  • cleaning of crockery/utensils - the use of disposable utensils, e.g., paper plates, cups, etc., is also recommended as a short term measure to reduce the need for washing up

Boiling the tap water to a rolling boil will kill any harmful bacteria. Note that water from the hot tap is not safe to use. 

How long can I store boiled cooled water?

Boiled water can be stored in a clean, covered container, in a cool area for up to 48 hours.

Can I use the food/drinks/ice I had already prepared before the boil water notice?

This will be a decision for your food business to make and will require a risk assessment to be carried out. You will need to determine when the food, etc., was made relative to the time the boil water notice was issued.

Ultimately food businesses need to assess the risk in their own food premises and in so doing may need to decide to reduce or cease trading for the duration of the disruption to the water supply.

You should consult with your inspector, e.g., an environmental health officer, for further guidance if you are unsure.

Should I use boiled water to clean the equipment and surfaces that come into contact with food?

Equipment, worktops, chopping boards or other surfaces that come into direct or indirect contact with food must be cleaned and sanitised using boiled or bottled water.

Can tap water be used for hand washing?

Hand washing can be carried out with tap water but an anti-bacterial soap should be used followed by use of a hand sanitiser. Hand sanitisers must only be used on clean hands as they don't work on dirty hands.

Can I use the coffee/tea machines?

You need to make sure the water in the coffee machine reaches at least 75° C to ensure harmful bacteria are killed. If not, the coffee machine should not be used.

How long will the boil water notice be in place?

Boil water notices are only lifted when certain criteria, set by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the Enviornmental Protection Agency (EPA), have been met. When a notice is lifted, food businesses in the area will be contacted individually with specific advice by the HSE Department of Environmental Health (and/or other food regulatory agencies depending on the type of food business).

To check the status of the notice, please visit the Irish Water Supply and Service Updates page.

What should I do once the boil water notice is lifted?

You should clean and disinfect all water-using fixtures and equipment, e.g., ice and drinks machines, and to rinse well before re-using.

Further Information

The HSE have issued advice for food businesses and childcare facilities.