Fact Sheet 1: Food Safety Laws in Australia
There are 3 levels of government who are concerned with food safety laws in Australia:
- National Level- Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ)
- State Level -The State Department of Health
- Local Level- Local council health department Environmental Health Officer (EHO)
National Food Safety Legislation
Federal law (FSANZ) develops food standards to cover the food industry in Australia and New Zealand.
The Food Safety Standards were developed to provide more effective uniform for the Food Safety Legislation Australia. This is reflected in Chapter 3 (Australia only) of the Food Standards Code.
The Australia and New Zealand food standards code states that it is a criminal offence in Australia to supply food that does not comply with relevant food standards.
It is also an offence to sell food which is damaged, has deteriorated or perished, is adulterated, or unfit for human consumption.
This means that it is not only the Food Safety Supervisor/business owner/proprietor that is responsible for food safety in the business, all staff in the food business responsible for keeping food safe within their duties. This includes cleaners and front of house staff.
Standard 3.3.1, 3.2.2 and 3.2.3 are mandatory for all food businesses.
Standard 3.1.1 Interpretation and Application
This is the introductory standard which explains the terms used in the Standards. It includes the provisions that require food business and food handlers to comply with the standards.
This standard sets out the requirements for the control of Food Safety hazards during the production, manufacture andhandling of food. This Standard is not mandatory for all food businesses. It applies to certain industry sectors that have been identified as being high risk.
What is a Food Safety Program?
It’s a manual that tells you how to handle food safely and may vary between workplaces (especially in the health sector). It contains record sheets - these records provide evidence that show you have taken ‘due diligence’ in keeping your food and customers safe from food poisoning.
Food safety programs are written based on HACCP principles which look at all stages in the production of food to manage and maintain food safety rather than the end product only.
This standard sets out specific food handling controls relating to the receipt, storage, processing, display, packaging, transportation, disposal and recall of food. Other requirements relate to the skills and knowledge of food handlers and their supervisors, the health and hygiene of food handlers and the cleaning and maintenance of food premises and equipment.
This standard sets out the requirements for food premises, fixtures, fittings, equipment and food transport vehicles.
This Standard requires food businesses that process food for service to vulnerable people to implement a documented and audited food safety program, as defined in Standard 3.2.1 of the Food Standards Code.
State Food Safety Legislation
The State Department of Health is responsible for ensuring that food sold or prepared for sale is safe to eat.
The Act also requires food premises comply with the Food Standards Code. Each state's regulations may have different requirements so please check their website.
Local Council Department of Health Officer (EHO)
Local councils implement the Food Act and are responsible for the regulation of food safety in their council area.
Councils also have the ability to issue infringement notices for certain food safety or hygiene offences.
Infringement notices include:
• failure to store, process, display and transport food.
• lack of cleanliness and adequacy of food premise.
• failure to clean and sanitise food equipment.
• operating food premises without registration or notification.
• failure to keep the required records on site.
EHO’s can also:
• Enter a property at any time.
• They do not need permission. Right of Entry
• Go into any area of a food business or establishment. Right to Inspect
• Collect samples from any area for testing.
• Close the business down on the spot…for a serious public health risk.
The Food Safety Act introduced the defence of “due diligence”. This allows a person who may be subject to legal proceedings to establish a defence if they can show that they have taken “all reasonable precautions and exercised due diligence” to avoid committing an offence.
A “due diligence” defence can be established if you can show that: You have taken all reasonable steps to ensure that the food you sell complies with the law, or the offence was the fault of another person or company.
How do I show “due diligence”?
Every case will be different and will depend on factors such as the size and type of business and the sort of food involved. In general you will need to be able to show evidence of:
- your premises and equipment comply with the Food Safety Regulation
- you buy from suppliers you know to be reputable
- food is kept at the correct temperature
- you have a proper stock rotation system
- you and your staff have adequate food safety training
Much of this will be covered by your Food Safety Program
What is a food safety supervisor?
A food safety supervisor is someone who:
knows how to recognise, prevent and alleviate food handling hazards at your premises;
has a Statement of Attainment that shows the required food safety competencies from a Registered Training Organisation (RTO); has the ability and authority to supervise other people handling food at the premises and ensure that food handling is done safely.