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Whether catching up over dinner, grabbing a quick bite or celebrating a birthday, enjoying a meal out with family and friends has become an essential part of our popular culture. The use of food apps, which allow users the convenience of enjoying food from their favourite eatery, has soared over the past year and look set to continue. Before you embark on setting up a cafe, restaurant or food app, there are a few legal issues to be aware of. Most importantly, all food businesses must comply with food safety standards in Australia. Below, we set out the key regulations and laws surrounding Australia’s food businesses.

Food Safety Standards

In Australia, food safety standards and labelling requirements are governed by the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code), the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991 and the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Regulations 1994.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is the authority that develops food standards for Australia and New Zealand. 

In addition to the Food Standard Code, various state and territory legislation may apply, including the respective Food Acts for each state and territory. The local council where the business exists will enforce these regulations.

Notification and Licences

Notification and licensing requirements vary from State to State. In general, if your business plans to sell food or drink directly to the public, you must notify your local council of your food activity details before you start. This may be done online, depending on the requirements of the State your business operates in. 

Selling food or drink to the public includes selling at market stalls, mobile food vans, home-based businesses and fundraisers.

In NSW, you will likely need to appoint a Food Safety Supervisor. However, you only need a food licence in NSW if your business:

  • processes raw foods, such as eggs, dairy, meat and seafood; or 
  • produces food for vulnerable persons. 

In Western Australia, you will not need to register your business if you:

  • sell food at a charity event, and the food is not potentially hazardous; or 
  • only sell packaged food that is not potentially hazardous, such as packs of lollies. 

However, you must still notify the relevant enforcement agency or local government.

Liquor Licence

On the other hand, your business will need a liquor licence if you wish to sell alcohol. There are various types of liquor licences, including:

  • on-premises licence for venues that want to sell alcohol for consumption on the premises; 
  • off-premises licence for liquor stores or other retailers; and 
  • special event licence for people wanting to sell alcohol for consumption at a particular event. 

Like food, notification and licensing requirements for liquor supply vary between States and Territories. For example, in New South Wales, you do not need a liquor licence in the following scenarios:

  • bed and breakfasts with less than eight adult guests, where a B&B is defined as an establishment that provides temporary accommodation to its guests;
  • gift baskets where the alcohol included is purchased from a liquor retailer, and the volume doesn’t exceed two litres per gift; and
  • retirement villages where a committee member is in attendance and the alcohol is purchased from a liquor retailer. 

Food Safety Code

Under the Food Standard Code, a food business must:

  • ensure that food handlers have skills in and knowledge of food safety and food hygiene matters;
  • notify the appropriate enforcement agency of its contact details, the nature of the business and location of its premises; 
  • take all practicable measures to process safe and suitable food and take all necessary steps to prevent the food from being contaminated;
  • display food in a way that minimises the risk of contamination;
  • provide separate serving utensils for each food; and 
  • transport food appropriately, such as ensuring that frozen food remains frozen during transportation. 

The Food Standard Code also explains regulations that apply to the premises which serve food, including:

1. design and fit-out standards, which must:

  • be appropriate for the intended food activities;
  • provide adequate space for food preparation and equipment;
  • be effectively cleaned; and
  • exclude dirt, smoke and pests to the extent that is practicable.

2. having an adequate water supply and toilet facilities;

3. sufficient ventilation to remove fumes and smoke; and

4. having a lighting system that provides sufficient natural or artificial light.

For businesses that need to have a food safety program, the Food Standard Code also explains requirements that help food businesses implement a system to correctly ensure food safety. For example, high-risk food businesses such as those that serve or process potentially hazardous food to vulnerable people. You must review your food safety program annually to ensure it remains adequate. Businesses that serve food to five or fewer clients and businesses that principally prepare food for the general community that may occasionally include vulnerable people are not subject to this standard.

Food Labelling

The Food Standard Code requires that labels and statements about food for sale do not misinform customers. It likewise prohibits businesses from making false, misleading or deceptive claims. Food labels must contain an accurate name and description.

For example, cherry yoghurt should contain real cherries rather than cherry flavouring; otherwise, the packaging must describe it as cherry flavoured yoghurt.

If food for sale is not packaged, it is not required to bear a label. However, packaged food for sale must specify certain information on its labels, such as supplier’s name, warning statements, an ingredients list and nutritional information. The contents of a label should be legible, prominent and in English. 

The Food Standard Code also sets out that specific categories of packaged food must also follow additional requirements.

For example, food sold as ice cream must contain no less than 100g of milk fat and 168g of food solids, and food sold as jam must contain no less than 650g of water-soluble solids. 

Key Takeaways

There are strict rules and regulations that all food businesses in Australia must comply with, including food licenses, food safety codes, food handling and food labelling. If you have any questions about food licensing or food safety in Australia, contact LegalVision’s compliance lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are food safety standards?

Food safety standards are legal requirements and obligations on businesses to produce food that is safe and suitable to eat. All food businesses in Australia must comply with these rules surrounding food licenses, food safety codes, food handling and food labelling.

Where do the food safety standards come from?

The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code), the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991 and the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Regulations 1994 set out the food safety standards and labelling requirements.

What kind of license does my food business need?

This will depend on the circumstance in which you are selling food. Generally, if your business plans to sell food or drink directly to the public, you must notify your local council before you start. Also, notification and licensing requirements vary from State to State so it is your responsibility to check these rules before you start operating your food business.

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