Some of Australia’s most successful businesses started at market stalls, including Collette Dinnigan and Nicole Zimmerman at Paddington Market. Although they sold clothing, the commercial possibilities for sellers of food are the same. If you are thinking of selling food at a market stall, this article will set out the licences you will need as well as the other legal obligations you should consider before putting canvas to concrete.

Does Selling Food at a Stall Require a Licence?

In short, yes. Selling anything at a stall requires a permit, including food. Licenses are especially important for food sellers due to the potential public health and safety implications.

To sell food at a stall, you will need the appropriate licence or approval from the relevant local council. You will require an additional permit if your stall sits over a footpath. Be sure to check with the event organisers to find out the exact location of your stall.

Council Approval

All local governments regulate temporary food stalls. You will then need to locate the relevant local authority for the market and make an application for approval. The process will vary somewhat between councils. It is essential that you find out as soon as possible the licence you require and the application procedure. You do not want to miss a major deadline.

For example, the operator of a food stall in the City of Sydney needs to complete a Temporary Food Stall Application. The correct form is available on their website and attracts a fee. The fee covers the cost of council officers making the necessary food safety inspections. An application must be lodged at least twenty-eight days before the market day.

If you succeed in receiving approval, the licence will specify how long it lasts. The licence’s duration might depend on what you intend to sell. For example, the City of Sydney categorises food sold at stalls as either ‘High Risk’ or ‘Low Risk’. Approval for low-risk foods lasts for two years, for high-risk food, it lasts for 13 months.

If you plan on having more than one stall, you are likely to need a separate approval for each. Check with the relevant local government authority in your area.

If you receive a permit, you must display your approval certificate at your stall at all times. The council is likely to give you an approval number that you will need to provide to market organisers.

Be aware that receiving local government approval does not automatically mean that the organisers of the event will approve your participation at the market. You will have to undertake a separate approval process with the event organisers. Check with them how to apply for approval and note all relevant dates.

Other Legal Considerations

Selling food at a stall also brings with it various other legal obligations that you must know about and observe including:

  • Food Safety Standards; and
  • National Food Measurement Laws.

Food Safety Standards

You will be obliged to comply with the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (‘the Code’) and various other standards for food safety. These are intended to safeguard public safety and protect the environment.

The Code addresses considerations such as:

  • Temperature control;
  • Hygiene and cleanliness;
  • Appropriate labelling; and
  • Hand washing.

This list is not exhaustive. You must be familiar with the Code and what it requires of you particularly, based on the nature of your stall or the food you are preparing.

Most councils are likely to require you to have evidence of a current and satisfactorily completed Food Safety Inspection for Off-Site Food Preparation and Storage. The council itself may do the inspection. Alternatively, your relevant state or territory food authority might provide this service. For example, the City of Sydney can do the inspection. They will also accept one from another council or Food Safety NSW.

Local councils could also require you to abide by other state or territory standards. For example, a stall in the city of Sydney must observe the obligations in the Food Act 2003 (NSW). NSW regulations also oblige stalls which provide food that is:

  • Not in your original packing;
  • Ready to eat; and
  • Could be hazardous.

Complying with food standards will mean that you must contact your event organiser to find out the location of the closest bathroom and where you will have access to water. You also need to be sure of how you are going to dispose of waste and scraps.

To find out more, check your local council’s website as well as your state or territory food authority. Information may also be available on the national website business.gov.au.

Food Measurement Laws

You must also observe all your obligations in federal trade measurement laws. These include the National Measurement Act 1960 (Cth) and the National Trade Measurement Regulations 2009 (Cth) (“the Regulations”). The National Measurement Institute (NMI) administers these laws.

These laws apply to all businesses who sell by measurement or manufacture, or who pack, import or sell pre-packaged goods. Businesses must also comply with these laws if they maintain measuring instruments. You can read more about these obligations in the NMI’s Guide to the Sale of Pre-Packaged Goods.

You will need to ensure that your measuring instruments comply with the regulations. If you require a technician licensed to check this, contact the NMI’s Licensing Team.

Final Word on Insurance

Most market organisers require stalls to have insurance to cover product liability and public liability. Sometimes this is included in your registration fee so be sure to ask.

If it is not, check with insurance companies directly to see what they can offer. Some companies provide insurance specifically directed to market stalls. You might also want to get Professional Indemnity Insurance, as an added precaution.

Key Takeaways

If you are just starting your business, operating a food stall at a fair or market can be an inexpensive way to sell your product and receive brand exposure. Ensure, however, that you comply with all the relevant rules and regulations such as obtaining the appropriate licenses and registration as well as complying with health and safety standards.

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Importantly, if you have any questions, ask! If you need assistance figuring out which laws apply to you in your area, get in touch with our business lawyers on 1300 544 755.

Carole Hemingway

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