The combination of tech, food and community were bound to come together in the concept of “Airbnb for Food”. For example, Sydney’s new startup WelcomeOver allows its users to host a dinner and set their own price, with the startup taking a 20 per cent commission. However, our previous piece on food safety has shown that hosts who wish to serve food to others in a commercial sense must comply with particular food regulations. In this article, we examine how it applies to social dining apps.

Food Standards Code

The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code applies to all food businesses. Standard 3.1.1 of the Code defines the term ‘food business’ to mean a ‘business, enterprise or activity’ involving (a) the handling of food intended for sale or (b) the sale of food, regardless of the nature and frequency of the business. Moreover, a ‘food handler’ is defined as a person who ‘directly engages’ in handling food for a food business.
The definitions are sufficiently broad to cover any possible business, enterprise or activity related to the distribution of food. Social dining apps are highly likely to be included due to the monetary aspect of the transaction which means food is being sold to consumers.

Hosting a Dinner

If you have signed up as a user on an app that allows you to host a paid dinner in your home for a bunch of strangers, you should be aware that you are subject to the Food Standards laws in Australia, both on a federal and state/territory level, even if you are only hosting a one-off dinner.

Firstly, you should ensure that the local council where your house is located has been notified that you intend to serve and sell food to others. Depending on the state or territory that you live in, you may perhaps be subject to a licence requirement or other regulation. In NSW, you may be required to have a Food Safety Supervisor there who has inspected the premises.

If alcohol is to be consumed and/or sold on the premises, this may also mean that a liquor licence will have to be acquired. If this is necessary, the most appropriate licence is likely to be the on-premises licence for venues that are selling alcohol for consumption in addition to another product.

You should ensure that the kitchen in your home complies with hygiene and health standards set out in the Code and that as the food handler you also comply with the necessary standards. This includes doing whatever reasonable to prevent your body and clothes coming into contact with food or food contact surfaces, wearing clean outer clothing, not sneezing, coughing or blowing over unprotected food or food contact surfaces.

Running an ‘Airbnb for Food’ Business

Even if you are not a host but have founded an app or startup that provides a platform for an Airbnb for Food business to take place, you may also be subject to the Code since ‘food business’ includes all businesses, enterprises or activities involving the sale of food.
In this case, you should ensure you have notified your users, particularly those that are interested in hosting dinners that they are subject to the food safety standards in Australia, including all notification, licencing and health and hygiene standards under the Code.

Key Takeaways

If you have not complied with the required Standards and any other regulations necessary, then you may be fined by your local council for being in breach of the Code. According to the ACCC, an individual may be fined up to $220,000 for breaching a mandatory safety standard.

Food safety is extremely important, and it is always best to be cautious and abide by all food regulations. If you have started an Airbnb for Food business or you have registered to be a host, you should ensure that you have complied with all necessary rules and regulations to avoid any legal consequences. If you have any questions, get in touch with our consumer law lawyers.

Anthony Lieu
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