The first rule of food production and service is safety.
It is an issue that is treated seriously and severely in Australia, with recalls, fines and even heavier penalties handed out when the standards are breached.
This can be a lot to take on board for businesses, with governing bodies existing at all three tiers of government.
This article aims to cut through the red tape so you can ensure you are properly protected.
Food safety standards in Australia
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is the governing body for food and beverage safety guidelines in our country.
FSANZ covers food safety programs, practices and general requirements, premises and equipment, and programs for food service to vulnerable persons.
The guidelines for the ‘Food Safety Practices and General Requirements’ and ‘Food Premises and Equipment’ sections are mandatory for all food businesses. These guidelines can all be read in the Safe Food Australia document, which is currently under review.
It is also important to note that charity and community groups, temporary events and home-based businesses are exempt from some of these guidelines, so it’s important for them to check with their local enforcement agency before serving customers.
But while this is the blanket body across the nation, it is important to note that states and territories have their own governing bodies and guidelines as well.
How it varies from state to state
Canberra is subject to the federal FSANZ guidelines.
New South Wales
The Food Act 2003 (NSW) enforces FSANZ guidelines and then designs, and monitors food safety schemes under the Food Regulation 2015 for the higher risk industries.
Like the ACT, the NT operates under FSANZ guidelines.
Safe Food Queensland manages operational aspects, and it is important to familiarise yourself with the Food Act 2006, the Food Regulation 2006, the Food Production (Safety) Act 2000 and the Food Production (Safety) Regulation 2014. Also check with local governments, which may have their own food safety regulations.
The Food Safety and Nutrition Branch (FSNB) of South Australia Health is the governing body for guidelines here. It operates under two acts of legislation: the Food Act 2001 (SA) and the Food Regulations 2002, as well as FSANZ. FSNB works in tandem with other government agencies and local governments to ensure maximum safety.
The guidelines on the Apple Isle are perhaps the most stringent in the country, with a clear mandate to not only ensure safety but protect the state’s reputation. A raft of legislation needs to be considered here, including; The Primary Produce Safety Act 2011, Primary Produce Safety (Egg) Regulations 2014, and Primary Produce Safety (Meat and Poultry) Regulations 2014. Guidelines for dairy, seafood, and seed sprouts also need to be recognised.
The Food Act 1984 provides the regulatory framework in Victoria. Health Victoria works with Federal and local governments to ensure consistency across the board.
Out west, the State Government boasts that they have the most comprehensive food safety legislation in the country, under the Food Act 2008. It covers 19 different issues for consumers and many, many topics for businesses covered under seven banners. Heavy reading, but as close to watertight as you can get in this country.
Where businesses have fallen afoul of the guidelines
The legislated rules for food safety are more than just guidelines—they carry heavy penalties if not followed.
Brisbane restaurant West End Garden was slugged with a $37,500 fine in August last year for multiple breaches.
Produce is also vulnerable, with 80 cases of salmonella in 2016 linked to the consumption of rockmelons.
There were also fears of a national shortage of garlic bread early this year after a recall of 11 of George Weston Foods products was issued.
In addition to these instances, bread rolls and mango drinks have also been recalled from supermarket shelves in recent years.
FSANZ lists the problems that can cause contamination as microbial contamination, labeling errors, foreign matter, chemical or other contaminants, undeclared allergens, biotoxins and other faults.
It definitely pays to be vigilant about food safety legislation.
About the Author
Josh Alston is a journalist, editor and copywriter who has worked for several daily, community and regional newspapers across the Queensland seaboard for 12 years. In this time he has covered news, sport and community issues and has been published in major daily newspapers and nationally online for breaking news. Josh presently works as a freelance reporter writing for clients including the Victorian Government, AGL Energy and a host of others.