Starting a food business
To protect public health, all food businesses must comply with the Victorian Food Act.
A food business is an enterprise or activity involving the sale of food.
Under the Food Act, most businesses operating in Victoria cannot sell food to the public unless they register as a food business with their local council. A small number of businesses do not need to register with their council; however they are still required to notify council of their intended food business activities.
What you need to do
Before starting up, all food businesses must contact their local council for information on their registration requirements and charges, their food business class (1, 2, 3 or 4), and whether they are required to have a food safety program.
Councils classify every food premises within their municipal districts according to their food safety risk using the Department of Health & Human Services’ Food business classification tool.
If you would like to know more about the new classification system, access the Food business classification tool.
Food businesses and community groups may use the tool for an indication of which class their food activities will fall within. Please note that this is only an indication – your official food premises classification will be determined by your local council.
Local council will consider the following when classifying your food premises:
- Who is the food being served to?
- Is the food packaged or unpackaged?
- Is the food potentially hazardous?
- Is the food for a community-run event?
If you need to register as a food business (most businesses that sell food will), your local council will charge a food business registration fee and you will need to renew your registration every year.You may also need a food safety program - that is a written plan that shows how your business will ensure that the food you sell is safe for human consumption.
Class 1 and 2 food premises must have a food safety program. This applies to businesses that provide potentially hazardous food to vulnerable groups, such as in aged care facilities, as well as many other food business types, including restaurants, cafes, take-away stores, pubs, delicatessens, most manufacturers and other food business types. For more information see Food safety programs.
Class 1 and class 2 food premises are required under the Act to keep a copy of their food safety program onsite at the premises.
Class 1 and class 2 food premises must also have a food safety supervisor. A food safety supervisor needs to have the expertise and authority to ensure that all food handling staff have sufficient skills and knowledge to provide safe food; including being able to understand and follow the food safety program. For more information see Food safety: training, skills & knowledge.
Food businesses whose main activities involve the sale, or preparation for sale, of foods not commonly associated with food poisoning (class 3 and 4) do not need a food safety program or food safety supervisor. Class 3 businesses will complete basic records of their food safety practices and keep them onsite.
All food businesses – regardless of class – must comply with the Food Standards Code.
For further information go to Food premises classification and registration overview
Contact your council if you have any queries.
This brochure provides more detail about your obligations in running a food business, and where to get additional information and assistance.
Step-by-Step: How to Register a Business Handling Food or Drink
This Business Victoria guide will help you to:
- work out if you need to be registered
- get your business premises registered
- see what other registrations, licences and permits you'll need
For more information visit the Business Victoria website.