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National food safety enforcement and reform

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Governments and food safety authorities across Australia have embarked on a national crackdown on food safety. Food safety regulators are actively enforcing existing and new food safety laws.

In many states, legislative amendments have been passed which give regulators greater powers and allow for public “naming and shaming” of businesses that breach food safety laws.

In August, several Sydney businesses were handed considerable fines for food safety breaches after successful prosecutions by the Sydney City Council.  Four Sydney eateries were handed fines totalling almost $30,000 for various breaches of the Food Act, including the presence of cockroaches, rodents and hair observed throughout the premises.

This month alone, a total of 184 businesses have been added to the NSW Food Authority’s “Name and Shame” list. The list is a publicly available online register of businesses that have been issued with penalty notices or have been prosecuted for breaches of food safety laws. The list is a permanent record, designed to help customers to make an informed decision about where they buy their food.

NSW legislation passed in 2009 will require certain businesses in the hospitality and retail food service sector to appoint at least one trained food safety supervisor. These laws are due to be phased in during 2010, so food businesses need to ensure they are compliant by the time the system takes effect.  

Another new initiative to be introduced under the reforms is the “Scores on Doors” program, whereby the food safety performance of a business will be required to be displayed at the point of sale. From 1 July 2011, food businesses will be required to display a certificate showing whether the business received an A, B or C for food safety in its most recent food safety audit.

Victoria is also in the midst of substantial reform of their food safety framework. Legislation passed in 2009 will strengthen food safety regulation and provide the authorities with greater enforcement powers. The changes will be phased in from 1 July 2010 to mid 2011 and include the following changes which took effect on 1 July 2010:

  • Establishment of an online register of food safety convictions
  • A broader range of regulatory tools for use by councils
  • Wider powers to order the temporary closure of food premises
  • A food premises classification system according to food safety risk

The remaining changes will be phased in on 1 March 2011 and 1 July 2011.

Other states across Australia are embarking on similar reform programs, with a focus on tighter regulation and providing information on food safety performance to the public.

What does this mean?

Food safety authorities across the country are actively enforcing food safety laws, making it critical for all food businesses to comply with their obligations. Businesses who fail to comply are liable to receive heavy fines or in some cases, temporary or permanent closure of a business.

New initiatives such as the “Name and Shame” lists and “Scores on Doors” program increase the transparency of food safety compliance. Now more than ever, the authorities and customers will hold food businesses accountable for food safety compliance.

Author:  Nick Rimington

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