When working in an industry that involves serving or producing food, it is important to know what is expected of you when it comes to the law. Failure to uphold these standards has the potential to financially impact your business.

Below is a summary of key sections of the Food Act 2003 (NSW) (the Act) that you need to know if you are running or working in a food-related business in the state of New South Wales.

If you are wanting to know more about your rights and obligations under the Act, contact a business lawyer.

What is the Food Act 2003 (NSW)?

The purpose of the Act is to ensure that food for sale is both safe and suitable for human consumption. The Act also prohibits any misleading conduct in connection with the sale of food and gives legal effect to the Food Standards Code (the Code).

The Act details the offences relating to food, orders that can be made against a business, outlines food safety programs, supervisors and lists the requirements to be able to register your food premises.

Offences relating to Food

The Act outlines many offences that relate to food that you as a business owner should be aware of, including but not limited to:

  • Handling or selling unsafe or unsuitable food;
  • Falsely describing the food for sale or misleading customers;
  • Not complying with the Food Standards Code; or
  • Incorrectly labelling your beef products, such as its quality, classification, category, cut or grade.

There are also defences available if you have been found to have committed an offence, including but not limited to:

  • If you had taken all reasonable precautions and exercised due diligence to avoid the offence;
  • Exported food to another country where the food is not in breach of their law;
  • Taken steps to destroy or dispose of the food rendering that food unsafe or unsuitable; or
  • Reasonably believing that the equipment being sold would not render the food unsafe.

Authorised Officials and their Powers

The Act confers powers upon authorised officials appointed by the Food Authority with the intention of ensuring your compliance with the Act. These officials have the ability to enter and inspect your food premises, take photos or audio recordings of the premises, and a range of other food-related powers.

If your food premises is found to be in unclean or in a state of disrepair, the Act confers the power to relevant authorities to:

  • Serve an improvement notice for your food premises to be put into a clean and sanitised state; and
  • Serve a prohibition order if you have not complied with the improvement notice within 24 hours which prohibits you from handling or selling food until authorised to do so.

If you have had a prohibition order served against you resulting in you suffering a loss where you feel there is no grounds for the matter to stand on, you may be able to seek compensation.

Food Safety Programs and Supervisors

In New South Wales, every food business must have in place food safety programs and food safety supervisors (FSS) to ensure that safe food handling practices are complied with. This is achieved with the food safety programs identifying potential risks that could lead to unsafe or unsuitable food, taking corrective action to minimise the hazard, and the FSS making sure these programs are adhered to by all staff.

Find out more about food safety programs and supervisors, along with other food handling requirements in our previous legal guide.

Registration of your food business

When starting a restaurant, cafe or bar, it is important to register your food premises with your local council. Upon registering or notifying your local council of your intention to operate the food premises, it is assumed by law that you are in compliance with the Code.

As a proprietor of a food business, it is important that you are aware of all legislation relevant to your business and if you are adhering to the requirements set by local, state and federal government. To ensure your compliance and if you need any further assistance relating to running a food premises, you should contact a business lawyer.

Need help? Contact a LawPath consultant on 1800 LAWPATH to learn more about customising legal documents, obtaining a fixed-fee quote from our network of 600+ expert lawyers or to get answers to your legal questions.

Logan Tennyson

Logan is a Paralegal working in our content team, which aims to provide free legal guides to facilitate public access to legal resources. With a passion for commercial and media law, his research explores how the law is adapting to emerging technologies and how this affects consumers and businesses alike.