Department of Health

Our statutory role

The department does not directly regulate food businesses under the Act, that function is devolved to local government. Instead, the department has other statutory functions under the Act.

For example, the department:

  • approves food safety auditors, authorises analysts, provides basic food handling information, guidance and education for food businesses and the general community
  • undertakes food safety risk assessments, incident investigations and responds where there are regional, statewide or national food safety incidents, including food recalls and participation in the work of the National Food Safety Network and National Food Incident Response Working Group.

The department plays an active statutory role in promoting the consistent administration of the Victorian Food Act 1984 (the Act) to local council environmental health officers (EHOs), authorised analysts and food safety auditors. The provision of this guidance, training and support is often informed by our other statutory roll which is to assist the Chief Health Officer (CHO) exercise and use his powers and functions under the Act.

The powers and functions of the CHO, as delegated by the Secretary, are many and varied and include emergency powers under s. 44 of the Act. These emergency powers exist to prevent or reduce the possibility of a serious danger to public health and include the power to issue an order to mandate a food recall.

The CHO’s powers are rarely invoked by the department as local councils, being the regulators of food premises in Victoria, have the regulatory role and powers to enforce the Act, such as premises closure, seizure and the authority to prosecute. The department works cooperatively with the relevant regulator (local council, PrimeSafe, Dairy Food Safety Victoria or our colleagues in other states or territories) to ensure the appropriate public health response is initiated as quickly as possible.

Victoria’s role in the national system

The department will often consult and collaborate with other jurisdictions to assist Victoria in formulating a balanced view that will result in minimum effective regulation to protect public health and safety while not having a disproportionate impact on the food industry.

Representation is important at this level, ensuring the protection and interests of Victorian consumers and food businesses are adequately considered to maintain a strong Victorian food industry and a healthy community.

The department participates in national committees or working groups that inform the development of standards or other regulatory measures, the implementation of standards, or coordinate activities or communications. They cover a wide range of areas such as:

  • health nutrition and related claims
  • food safety management
  • food incident response
  • food medicine interface
  • food regulation surveillance and monitoring
  • food analysis expert advice.

Victoria's food regulation system

At the heart of Victoria’s food industry are some of the highest food safety standards in the world, reflecting the strong track record of government and business working in partnership.

Victoria’s food industry continues to grow both domestically and internationally and is a major employer. Victoria’s food manufacturing sector makes a significant contribution to the Victorian economy and the department works with colleagues from the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR), the regulator organisations PrimeSafe, Dairy Food Safety Victoria and other relevant departments to provide a whole-of-Victorian-Government approach to the process of making food law.

Reviewed 06 October 2022


Contact details

Food Safety Unit

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