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The Good Oil on the Food Bill

By Melissa Higham - 2 Feb 2012

Over Christmas, there was a lot of media hype and confusion surrounding the application of the Food Bill to market gardeners, farmer's market stall holders, cake stalls and the like. The Bill has been before Parliament for over a year, but until now has received little attention.

According to the Government, the Bill will not stop farmers markets operating, food being exchanged between neighbours or friends or the occasional weekend sausage sizzle fundraiser outside the "Red Shed".

The Bill replaces the Food Act 1981 with its focus on "walls, floors and ceilings" with a risk-based approach to food safety focusing on the processes and practices involved in keeping food safe. The Bill introduces a range of tools that can be applied by individuals and businesses which sell or supply food in exchange for payment, depending on the risk posed by that particular food or the business making or supplying the food.

High risk manufacturers such as baby food manufacturers or businesses that sell food such as restaurants will face the highest level of requirements. They must operate under food control plans providing a series of measures against which a food operator can manage their food business.

Medium risk food businesses such as bakeries face "national programme" regulations which propose a more generic and flexible approach to food safety. The regulations will have three levels of national programme and the levels which need to be attained will vary according to the risk posed by the business. 

Low risk food businesses face a non-regulatory approach. Food handler guidance will be available to low risk practices (such as fund raising events, bed and breakfast operators, farmers market stall holders). These are an educative set of tips on how to produce and keep safe food.

With the Bill likely to be enacted sometime this year, businesses will need to take advice so that they are aware of their obligations and ensure they comply.

For more information on the Food Bill and to track its progress through Parliament click here.

If you are in the business of manufacturing and or selling food and would like advice on the extent of your compliance obligations under the proposed bill, please contact your usual Martelli McKegg contact or Melissa Higham.


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