Department of Health

Key messages

  • Class 1 food premises use independent (nonstandard) food safety programs.
  • Class 2 premises that are required to have a food safety program may choose between using an independent (non-standard) program and a department-registered food safety program template (standard program). Non-standard programs must be audited.
  • Class 3 and 4 premises do not need a food safety program and are therefore not audited.
  • Critical non-conformances will be reported to the local council as soon as practical (usually within 24 hours of the audit).
  • Class 1 & 2 food premises that have food safety programs may be audited by an approved auditor.
  • An auditor must not conduct the food safety audit of a premises, if the auditor has written, or assisted in the preparing the food safety program for that premises.
  • Local council and auditors each have responsibilities in the auditing process.

Class 1 and some class 2 premises that have independent food safety programs need to be audited as a fundamental part of Victoria’s food safety system.

The food safety audit system provides assurance that food safety auditors certified under the Food Act 1984 (the Act) are working in a consistent and reliable manner. This safeguards Victoria’s reputation for safe food.

An audit checks:

  • the adequacy of a business’s food safety program
  • the business is following all parts of its program. 
  • that the business is complying with the Australian New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code).

Audits must be conducted at declared intervals by a department-approved food safety auditor who is certified as competent to conduct audits.

For information on auditor certification, go to the Food safety auditors page.

Audit requirements

The Act requires that:

  • a food safety audit be conducted at declared interval(s) to determine whether a food safety program
    • has been complied with during the period covered by the audit
    • is still adequate at the date of the audit
  • the business is complying with the Code.
  • the business has completed all required records.
  • the business has addressed non-conformances identified previously
  • the audit of a food safety program must be conducted by a department-approved food safety auditor certified as competent to conduct an audit of such a premises.

An audit involves a food safety auditor checking that a business is complying with:

  • its food safety program
  • the Act
  • the applicable Code standards.

Proprietors of food premises must:

  • engage a department-approved auditor
  • ensure that copies of their food safety program and records are available on the premises at all times.
  • make available all relevant documentation that supports the food safety program for the auditor to view.

Following the audit, providing the business is fully complying, the auditor must provide an audit certificate to the council within 14 days of giving the certificate to the business. That certificate must be either:

  • a certificate of compliance; or
  • a certificate detailing that corrective actions have been taken to address deficiencies or any outstanding matters if an audit has revealed non-compliances at the premises.

The council will need this certificate to register the business (for both new registrations and renewals).

Should the auditor identify any deficiencies that may lead to a serious risk of food being sold or prepared that is unsafe or unsuitable then the auditor must inform the local council and our Food safety unit as soon as practicable.

Approved auditors carry identification to confirm that they have the required qualifications and approval.

The proprietor of the premises must provide the council with a copy of any report prepared by the auditor, if requested by the council.

Auditor list

The food safety auditor list is updated regularly.

Class 1 requirements

Independent programs

All class 1 food businesses that choose to develop their own independent (nonstandard) food safety programs must be audited annually.

Class 1 businesses with independent food safety programs also need to undergo an annual assessment by their local council for their compliance with their food safety program and the Code.

The Act specifically addresses conflict of interest. It states an auditor must not conduct the food safety audit of a premises if the auditor has written or assisted in preparing the food safety program for that premises. Please contact the food safety unit for further guidance.

Registered programs

The Act has been amended to enable templates to be registered with the department, which would allow class 1 premises to develop a standard food safety program.

Class 2 requirements

All class 2 food businesses that are required to have a food safety program may choose to develop their own independent (non-standard) food safety programs must be audited annually.

Not all class 2 food services or retail premises are required to use a food safety program.

Food safety programs are required for premises like cafés and restaurants, if they are:

Class 2 businesses using a department-registered standard food safety program must undergo an annual assessment of their premises and compliance with the food safety program and the Code.

This assessment is conducted by their local council.

Class 2 businesses that do not require a food safety program. However they must still be able to provide information about how the food they sell is kept safe for human consumption.

Class 3A requirements

Class 3A premises must have a food safety supervisor. This is because the type of the food being handled is potentially hazardous.

Class 3 and class 4 requirements

Class 3 and class 4 food premises supply or handle only low-risk foods. They are therefore not required to have a food safety program and do not need to be audited.

Under the Act, the level of regulation is aligned to the type of food handled by the business and the microbial hazards these activities pose to public health.

Audit fees

The cost of auditing a food safety program is negotiated between the business and the auditor. It is expected that a business will enter into a service agreement with an auditor before starting the audit.

Local council responsibilities

Local council retains responsibility for registering food businesses under the Act and inspecting all class 1 and 2 food premises.

Local council is also responsible for:

  • once a year, assessing all class 1 food premises and class 2 premises
  • responding to notifications of critical non-conformances from an auditor
  • enforcing compliance with the audit frequency declared in the Government Gazette by the Secretary to the Department of Health (currently one audit each year for class 1 and class 2 premises)
  • investigating complaints made against a food business
  • enforcing regulatory action, where required.

Auditor responsibilities

The Act specifically addresses conflict of interest. It states an auditor must not conduct the food safety audit of a premises if the auditor has written or assisted in preparing the food safety program for that premises. Please contact the food safety unit for further guidance.

The auditor will assess whether a food safety program is adequate and will check that the business is following all parts of its food safety program. The auditor is required to provide the proprietor with an audit report should any non-conformances be identified and negotiate time periods for them to be rectified.

Should the auditor identify any critical non-conformances, they must notify the relevant council as soon as practicable (within 24 hours).

At the end of the audit process, providing the business is in full compliance, the auditor will issue an audit certificate to the business.

The auditor must also forward a copy of the audit certificate to the registering council within 14 days after it has been given to the proprietor.

Non-conformance

A non-conformance is a breach of hygiene or food handling practice, or an inadequacy of the food safety program. A non-conformance may include requirements documented in the food safety program, or the requirements of the Act and/or the Code. 

Critical non-conformance

A critical non-conformance is where there is a deficiency or breach that poses a serious risk to public health. This includes situations where there is a serious risk of food being sold that is unsafe or unsuitable to eat.

Reviewed 09 January 2023

Health.vic

Contact details

Food Safety Unit

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