WHAT DOES MY BUSINESS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT FOOD SAFETY LEGISLATION?
WHAT DOES IT INVOLVES AND HOW CAN ORGANISATIONS CAN COMPLY?
The Food Safety legislation in South Australia has been operational since December 2002, and consists of the Food Act 2001, the Food Regulations, and the national Food Safety Standards.
This information sheet addresses how food safety legislative requirements might affect organisations involved in the handling, processing or selling of food in some way.
WHAT IS THE INTENT OF FOOD SAFETY LEGISLATION?
The focus is on keeping food safe, preventing problems before they can develop and reducing outbreaks and the growing long-term risk of food-borne illness.
WHAT LEGAL RESPONSIBILITIES DO FOOD BUSINESSES HAVE?
All commercially handled food must comply with food legislation. Food businesses are legally responsible for ensuring that their products are safe. Unsafe food can cause severe health problems - even death.
The legislation is designed to ensure food businesses are aware of the danger of unsafe food. While the majority of businesses observe practices that ensure their reputation as a supplier of safe food, some unintentionally create hazards that may cause food-borne illness. The legislation puts the onus on them to lift their products and premises to the high standards observed by the rest of the industry.
A food business will also need to ensure its products comply with other food legislation dealing with issues such as labelling compliance, including ensuring the accuracy of Nutrition Information Panels and ‘Country Of Origin Labelling’ (COOL) compliance.
WHAT ARE THE FOOD STANDARDS?
Interpretation and Application - sets out provisions applying to the operational standards.
Food Safety Practices and General Requirements - requires food businesses to:
observe specific practices in relation to food handling, cleaning, sanitising and personal hygiene to ensure that food is safe and suitable;
notify the relevant authority of their business and the nature of its output;
provide a mechanism for food recalls; and
ensure their staff and supervisors have the skills and knowledge in food safety commensurate
with their work activities
Food Premises and Equipment - sets design and construction requirements for food premises and transport.
Food Safety Programs – sets out requirements for a systematic and formalised approach to identifying and controlling food safety hazards. This standard is not yet compulsory, except for the following food industry sectors:
food service in which potentially hazardous food is served to vulnerable populations (e.g. hospitals, aged care, nursing homes, childcare, delivered meals organisations);
catering operations serving food to the general public;
producing, harvesting, processing and distributing raw oysters and other bivalves; and,
producing manufactured and fermented meat.
UPDATE - 3.2.2A - New Food Safety Standard for food businesses come in to effect in December 2023.
WHAT DO FOOD BUSINESSES HAVE TO DO TO COMPLY WITH THE STANDARDS?
To meet the requirements of the standards, anyone selling food must:
comply with laws outlining essential food safety practices including sanitation and pest control, personnel hygiene, maintenance of premises and equipment and transportation and storage;
ensure people working with food have appropriate skills and knowledge of food hygiene and safety... people already in the food industry should have a clear understanding of these practices;
lodge business details with (notify) the relevant health authority to enable speedy contact if a serious safety problem is identified in the food handled by a business;
have in place an appropriate food recall system; and
ensure food products comply with labelling requirements.
WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL COSTS FOR A FOOD BUSINESS?
Some businesses should invest in food safety and hygiene educational programs and at least a basic management system.
Good management of food safety issues may involve expense, but costs will be greater for businesses that fail to comply with the standards.
Local governments set charges associated with regulation and enforcement. A business may be charged for inspection of its premises and some local councils charge for licensing and registration.
Some businesses may also invest in a formal HACCP based food safety management system to meet commercial customer requirements.
DO PEOPLE HANDLING FOOD NEED SPECIAL TRAINING?
While supervisors or managers are required to have knowledge and skills in food safety and be able to pass them on to their staff, formal training is not compulsory, however it must be demonstrated that all applicable staff understand the basics of food safety and hygiene. This can be achieved by:
‘in house’ training by other staff or the owner of the business;
giving staff food safety and food hygiene information for them to read;
have EQAS develop operating rules that set out the responsibilities of food handlers and their supervisors;
sending staff to food safety courses run by EQAS
hiring EQAS to run a course for the staff of the business; and
recruiting staff with formal industry based training qualifications.
Businesses can choose the approach that best suits their business, provided they can be confident and demonstrate that their staff have the skills and knowledge needed for the work they do.
WHAT SERVICE DO EQAS PROVIDE?
EQAS helps you comply with food safety laws by:
assisting you to identify the food handling and safety risks in your business;
assisting you to identify what food handling tasks your different staff members carry out;
assisting you to establish clear set food safety procedures for your staff to follow;
training your staff and supervisors about the issues associated with food safety, and the safe food handling practices that are relevant to your business; and
verifying your Nutrition Information Panels (NIP) or ‘COOL’ labelling calculations.
EQAS also provides more advanced food safety management systems incorporating HACCP - Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points. This is an internationally recognised system for managing the risks associated with food safety, and will help ensure your compliance with the new standards.
Although formally documented food systems that are independently audited are not yet compulsory for all food businesses under South Australian legislation, many businesses are insisting on it and choosing to implement such systems for their own business reasons.
Food businesses operating in any of the four high risk sectors previously mentioned, should be actively maintaining a formal food safety program.
Just contact us to obtain more information and/or arrange a no obligation meeting!