As a Queensland food business, you have a responsibility and duty of care to ensure that any food for sale at your business is safe and suitable for human consumption, and meets all standards set out in the Food Standards Code. This is a legal requirement of the Food Act 2006.
QLD Health is responsible for regulating and monitoring food safety across the entire Queensland food industry. This includes:
- food business licensing
- conducting food business inspections (in partnership with local councils)
- specifying food safety training requirements
Every licensable food business can expect a food safety inspection from the local council. Once your food safety program is accredited you are required to:
- organise your first compliance audit within six months
- have regular inspections undertaken at the frequency specified by the local government that accredited the food safety program
- Performing poorly in an inspection can lead to infringement notices, penalties and fines, or even closure.
In certain parts of Queensland, a campaign called 'Eat Safe' evaluates food businesses on their levels of food safety. In addition to the usual infringement notices, penalties and fines, Eat Safe health and hygiene inspections result in a star rating based on how well they meet the food safety standards required by law.
What is an Eat Safe Rating?
In parts of Queensland, including Brisbane, Logan and Bundaberg, food businesses are given a star rating between 0 and 5 (0 being non-compliant and 5 being the best) based on the legal requirements of food safety requirements and standards set out in the Food Act 2006 and the Food Standards Code:
5 stars Excellent performer, fully compliant and overall very high standard of food safety management practices.
4 stars Very good performer, high standard of compliance and overall good standard of food safety management practices.
3 stars Good performer, good level of compliance and overall acceptable standard of food safety management practices.
2 stars Poor performer, low level of compliance with more effort required.
No stars Non-compliant, a general failure to comply with major effort required to rectify issues. (The ‘no star’ rating is the only non-compliant rating. Therefore, there is no 1 star rating.)
Eat Safe star ratings have a significant impact on the reputation of food businesses. Each year, for example, Brisbane City Council releases a 'Name & Shame' list for food businesses that have breached food safety legislation within the past 12 months.
There is no legal requirement to display an Eat Safe rating at your food business premises, however a good rating is an easy way to let your customers know that yours is a business that can be trusted in terms of food safety.
It’s important to prepare for your food safety and hygiene inspection, to maximise your chances of being rated 5 stars, demonstrating that your food business has been evaluated as achieving the highest standards in food safety.
The Assessment Process
A local council Environmental Health Officer (EHO) will perform the inspection of your business. The assessment takes into account all the food handling processes within your business operation and how you effectively manage food safety risks.
The consequences of performing poorly in the inspection can be serious. Any food safety risks or non-compliances identified by the EHO must be acknowledged and corrective actions must be taken by the licensee. The amount of time allowed to correct risks to food safety will depend on the severity, scale or immediate risk.
Risks to food safety can range from minor to major infringements. In the safe day-to-day operation of a food business, risks to food safety must be identified and controlled using HACCP principles, and documented in the Food Safety Plan (sometimes called a Food Safety Program), a living document that should be used and kept up-to-date by all Food Handlers and Food Safety Supervisors.
It is a legal requirement that you and your employees have appropriate skills and knowledge in food safety and hygiene matters, such as the HACCP principles, so it is important to undertake the appropriate training in food safety (like the courses offered by AIFS).
Businesses can still pass the inspection even if a small number of minor issues are found, such as slightly defective fixtures or equipment (e.g. split refrigerator door seals) or minor cleaning issues. However, a critical food safety breach, like incorrect temperature control or a pest infestation, can result in the food business receiving a hefty fine or even being shut down.
Businesses that have made improvements to their food safety management practices since their primary inspection and want to improve their star rating may be able to request a reassessment for a fee.
A reassessment will be conducted only after a set time period has elapsed. For example, in Brisbane, a 3 star rating or above can be reassessed after a 6 month period, while a 2 star rating or less can be reassessed after a 3 month period.
How to Prepare for the Inspection
The EHO from your local council will inspect and assess all food safety risks associated with the business. The results of this assessment will be formally documented and retained for official records.
Evidence of food safety performance is collected through:
- visual inspections
- discussions with staff
- examination of documentation
- observation of business activities
The good news is that food safety risks can be managed and controlled with good food hygiene practices and documented procedures. These are outlined and explained in detail in all of our Food Safety Courses.
Education is key to being prepared. The majority of food safety hazards are caused due to a lack of understanding as to the dangers.
Every year in Australia, thousands of people get sick and many die due to poor food handling practices. Many of these incidents are easily avoidable. By educating you and your staff to be food safety aware, you minimise risks to customer safety and maximise your chances of performing well in the food safety and hygiene inspection.
Food Safety Inspection Preparation Checklist
Below is a consolidated checklist compiled by AIFS to help you prepare for your food safety and hygiene inspection, and highlight areas in which you may need to take immediate action. For a full Eat Safe list of requirements, like this Eat Safe Brisbane City Council checklist, visit your local council website.
Section A assesses compliance with the legal food safety requirements:
- Are you meeting all the requirements of your food business licence?
Is it current? Is it displayed prominently on the premises? Have you fixed any previous compliance issues?
- Does your business have a trained Food Safety Supervisor?
By law, every Queensland food premises must have at least one Food Safety Supervisor. The nationally recognised AIFS Food Safety Supervisor Course can be taken online and is designed to meet all state and federal requirements for food safety training.
- If required, does your food business have an accredited Food Safety Program?
Under the Food Act 2006, only certain licensable food businesses in Queensland, including off-site and on-site caterers, hospitals and care facilities, must have a Food Safety Program accredited by Council. For more information on the types of food businesses that require a food safety program, contact your local council. If you need help developing a Food Safety Program, you can use the AIFS HACCP Food Safety Plan Kit to help you build a Program for your business.
- Do you and your employees have appropriate skills and knowledge in food safety and hygiene matters?
The Food Standards Code requires anyone who works with food to be trained in food safety. The AIFS Food Handler Course can be taken online and is designed to meet all state and federal requirements for food safety training.
- Is your food received, stored, processed cooked and displayed properly?
You will be assessed on how well your food business protects food from contamination and spoilage throughout all processes, from receipt from supplier to delivery to the customer.
- Are you and your staff meeting all health and hygiene requirements?
This includes an assessment of your hand washing facilities and how hygienically food is handled on the premises. There is a correct way to wash hands - are your staff doing it? Check out our free hand washing poster online.
- Are your premises and equipment clean, sanitised and in a state of good repair?
Everything from mechanical ventilation, floors and ceilings, through to crockery, utensils and cutting boards will be assessed. There is a correct way to clean and sanitise - are you implementing it?
- Are there any signs of pests on the premises?
Is pest control carried out at sufficient intervals to eradicate pests?
Section B assesses good management practices and documentation for higher ratings:
- Do you have an accredited HACCP Plan and Food Safety Program?
If not, you will be asked for your cleaning program and schedule, temperature records, staff training records, maintenance and pest control records, waste collection and stock control schedule.
- Are your Food Handlers trained in a nationally recognised food safety training course?
The Food Standards Code requires anyone who works with food to be trained in food safety. Plus, if more than 50% of your Food Handlers are trained in a nationally recognised course, you score additional points on the assessment. The AIFS Food Handler Course can be taken online and is designed to meet all state and federal requirements for food safety training.
Want More Tips and Information?
All of the legal requirements for food safety in Queensland, and the points on which you’ll be assessed during your local council food safety and hygiene inspection, are covered in our Food Safety Courses.
For more tips and information, check out our Resources Centre online.