The boom in Australia for “eat with strangers” apps or “social dining” apps has appeared across the dining scene. Such apps allows its users to experience a home-cooked dining experience in a stranger’s house or allows a user to create their dining event and charge per head to turn their home into a restaurant. The idea behind the food app seems sincere, with a genuine desire for people to look up from their screens, mingle and meet others in a pleasant environment.

However, there are a few legal issues that may arise from this scenario, most importantly is that in Australia, all food businesses must comply with food safety standards. Below, we set out the key regulations and laws surrounding food businesses in Australia.

Food Safety Standards

In Australia, food safety standards 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.

The main bodies governing food businesses are Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), the Australian Business Licence and Information Service (ABLIS) on a national level. There is various state and territory legislation may apply as well, including the respective Food Acts for each state/territory. These regulations will be enforced by the local council in which the business exists.

Notification and Licences

Notification and licensing requirements vary from state to state. In general, all food businesses that sell food direct to the public, including food that is ready-to-eat, must give notification to the local council that it operates in. In NSW, it will also most likely need a Food Safety Supervisor. However, a food licence is unnecessary in NSW unless the business will process raw foods or produce food for vulnerable persons.

On the other hand, a liquor licence is needed for persons and businesses wanting to sell alcohol. There are various types of liquor licences, including the on-premises licence for venues that want to sell alcohol for consumption on another product or special event licence for persons wanting to sell alcohol for consumption at a particular event. The exception is for established Bed and Breakfasts with less than 8 adult guests, where a B&B is defined as an establishment that provides temporary accommodation to its guests.

Food Safety Code

The Code sets out five key food safety standards:

  • 3.1.1 Interpretation and Application
  • 3.2.1 Food Safety Programs
  • 3.2.2 Food Safety Practices and General Requirements
  • 3.2.3 Food Premises and Equipment
  • 3.3.1 Food Safety Programs for Food Service to Vulnerable Persons

Standard 3.1.1 sets out definitions and what is considered a ‘food business’ that is subject to the Code. Standard 3.2.2 and 3.2.3 are the mandatory standards for all food businesses. It sets out requirements for food handlers regarding health and hygiene and the need for notification to the local council. Additionally, it also explains the regulations that apply to the premises at which the food is served, including design and fit-out standards.

Standard 3.2.1 explains requirements for food safety programs that helps food business implement a system in place to correctly ensure food safety. This applies only to businesses that need to have a food safety program. For example, high-risk food businesses such as those that serve or process potentially hazardous food to vulnerable people are included and those in this category are also subject to Standard 3.3.1. However under this standard, businesses that serve food to five or fewer clients, as well as businesses that principally prepare food for the general community that may occasionally include vulnerable people, are not subject to this standard.

Key Takeaways

There are strict rules and regulations that all food businesses must comply with. It is likely that most “eat with strangers” apps are also subject to these laws. If you have any questions about food licensing, get in touch with our business lawyers.

Lachlan McKnight
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