If you own or intend on starting a business that handles food intended for sale or sells food, your business is a food business under the Food Act 2003 (NSW). You should follow correct safety procedures and legal requirements to service your customers properly. Taking the necessary steps and following correct procedure will ensure your food business maintains its reputation. Doing so also helps you to avoid penalties issued by food authorities for breaching the Food Act.
What is the Food Act?
The Food Act regulates how food businesses manage and sell their products. The Act also incorporates the standards in the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ). Australia highly regulates food to ensure it is of high quality, and suitable for human consumption. Regulations are also put in place for food businesses, to prevent conduct that might mislead customers.
The Food Act covers actions that would constitute an offence by food businesses. For example, it is an offence to sell food that misleads consumers. Therefore, selling contaminated or falsely described food is an offence.It also covers what happens if a food business gives false information or has items that will be seized by authorised officers.
How Can I Protect My Food Business?
It is important to protect your food business, and ensure that you do not breach the Food Act. To do so, you can follow these steps:
- Ensure your premises are clean, and all of your vehicles and equipment are clean and in proper working order;
- Ensure you comply with any notices that require you to fix your premises;
- Comply with the Food Standards Code;
- Label food correctly and honestly;
- Have a policy that carefully monitors how employees handle food and machinery; and
- Pay any penalties on time and fixing any faults as soon as possible.
Offences Related to Food
There are some serious offences relating to food that every food business must take steps to prevent. Some offences under the Food Act include:
- Handling food unsafely;
- Selling unsafe food;
- Falsely describing food;
- Handling unsuitable food;
- Engaging in misleading conduct relating to the sale of food;
- Selling equipment that is unfit to handle food or would render food unsafe.
Defences to Breaches
Sometimes you may have breached the Food Act but have taken all necessary precautions. In this situation, the Food Act offers some defences including that you:
- Will be exporting the food;
- Took all reasonable precautions and exercised due diligence;
- Acted on information supplied by another person; or
- Made a genuine mistake.
The Act monitors food safety, licenses food businesses, monitors complaints, investigates food hygiene and labels complaints.
Failure to Comply
If you do not comply with the Food Act, you may face some of the following consequences:
- Verbal warnings.
- Authorities may send you warning letters and given a deadline to respond.
- An improvement notice considering issues like cleaning, repair or replacement of equipment.
- A prevention order that prevents you from using certain appliances or preventing your business from operating at all.
- Your business may be flagged on an authority website warning potential customers that you don’t comply with the Food Act.
- Your business may be required to give evidence as to why your food licence should not be suspended.
- Suspension or cancellation of your licence.
The costs of not complying with laws relating to food businesses may also severely impact customers. For example, if your food is contaminated or doesn’t have accurate descriptions, customers may suffer. Further, this may also have adverse impacts on the finance of your business and your employees.
Owning or starting your food business is exciting and challenging. It is important to have the correct steps in place for yourself and your employees when selling food to avoid any challenges with authorities. If you have any questions or need advice on complying with the Food Act, get in touch with one of LegalVision’s business lawyers on 1300 544 755.
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