Food safety programs
All food businesses must contact their local councils before commencing or altering their food activities to determine their classification.
In addition, Class 1 or class 2 food premises need a food safety program.
A food safety program is simply a written plan that shows what a business does to ensure that the food it sells is safe for human consumption. It is an important tool for helping businesses that handle, process or sell potentially hazardous foods to maintain safe food handling practices and protect public health.
If you plan to alter the type of food you handle, it may alter the class of your food premises. For more information, about this, refer to the information flyers for food premises at the Food premises classification and registration overview page or contact your local council. To find your local council, visit the Local Government Victoria website.
Food businesses can develop their own food safety program using a registered food safety program template - see Food safety program templates.
Class 1 food premises - food safety programs
Class 1 food businesses must have a food safety program. For the present this continues to be an "independent" non-standard food safety program that is tailored to take into account the food handling activities at the premises.
The Act allows food safety program templates to be registered by the Department of Health & Human Services for different types of class 1 premises. This would not compromise food safety and may be easier for class 1s. . Class 1 facilities would be able to complete a template document rather than arrange for a program to be written specifically for their food handling activities. It would also simplify the compliance checking process.
As this is a new initiative, no such templates have yet been developed or registered with the Department of Health & Human Services. Detailed work is required to ensure that any template that is developed is suitable to address the risks associated with the vulnerable persons who are supplied food by the facility.
Further information will be provided when any templates are registered. This will build on the current practice where some premises have a food safety program adapted from a registered template that is used in their sector.
Class 2 food premises - food safety programs
Class 2 food premises have more choice in how they develop their food safety programs. They can have a food safety program that is either:
- completed using any suitable template registered with the Department of Health & Human Services; or
- an independent ( non-standard ) program that is developed specifically for the premises.
For those businesses that choose to use a template developed by the Department of Health & Human Services, an easy-to-use Department of Health & Human Services Food safety program template for class 2 retail and food service businesses no.1, version 3 is available, or use FoodSmart.
This template includes important new features, including:
- shorter simpler records
- enhanced instructions about how to handle food safely
- updated information on allergies and labelling
- instructions about handling raw eggs and raw egg products
- up to date information for food vans and stalls.
This template is suitable for a range of class 2 premises, including cafes and restaurants. A business with multiple associated class 2 food premises can also use it for all their class 2 activities. For example:
- a restaurant that also provides off site catering, or
- a business that prepares food at a permanent site and sells it from a stall at markets.
Other class 2 food businesses have an independent ( non- standard) food safety program developed specifically for their premises which must be audited. For more information see Food safety audits and assessments. This option continues to be available for those businesses.
Class 1 and class 2 food premises
All class 1 and 2 food premises must keep a copy of their food safety program – of whatever kind - onsite at the business premises.
If a business uses an independent ( non-standard) food safety program, the proprietor can choose to have audits conducted by any auditor approved by the Department of Health & Human Services. That audit can be conducted by an independent private auditor or - if the local council offers audit services - by a council auditor.
In future, some businesses may choose to develop a non-standard food safety program under a declared Quality Assurance (QA) system or code, so the program can be incorporated into the larger whole of business system. Email the Department of Health & Human Services at Foodsafety@dhhs.vic.gov.au if this is relevant to your business.
Class 3 and class 4 food premises – no food safety program
Due to the lower food safety risks associated with the food handling activities at these premises, class 3 and 4 food premises do not need a food safety program.
However, they must still ensure that the food they sell is safe. For further information about the requirements that apply to class 3 and 4 premises, go to Food premises classification and registration overview.
Each food business class and food safety program type has its own compliance requirements:
|Class 1||Class 2|
|Independent food safety program||
2 annual compliance checks
|1 annual audit by a DH-approved Food Safety Auditor|
|DH registered food safety program||Not currently available||1 annual assessment of compliance by council|
Local councils provide advice to proprietors and community groups about how to handle food safely and are responsible for enforcing the Food Act.
When there has been repeated non-compliance by a food premises, councils may choose to charge the premises additional fees for follow-up inspections, in order to recover the increased costs councils incur in repeatedly attending the same premises. However, fees cannot be charged for mandatory "statutory" assessments or inspections.
Councils are able to issue on-the-spot fines for certain food safety or hygiene offences. This includes a range of less serious infringements. For more information see Enforcement and penalties.
Because class 3 and 4 food premises handle or sell only low risk foods, they do not need to have a food safety program and, as a result, do not need to be audited.