Do I Need a Food Licence in Victoria?

This article examines the requirements for food licences for food businesses in Victoria.
June 29, 2016

This will depend on what type of food business it is. In Victoria, most food businesses aren’t allowed to sell food to the public unless they’re registered with their local council. Before opening a new food business or taking over an existing one, you should contact your local council to find out exactly what you need to do to get registered and what your food safety requirements are.

The councils consider lots of factors when deciding if a food business has to be registered. Each business is judged on a case-by-case basis and needs to fill out a separate application. Before you start your food business, you should contact your local council and find out exactly what you need to do. If you’re not sure which is your local council, you can search for it here

There are some food businesses that don’t need to register with their local council. Most primary producers will need to register with certain industry regulators. PrimeSafe is the regulator for most businesses whose main activity is selling raw and processed meats, poultry and seafood.  While Dairy Food Safety Victoria regulates the dairy industry. 

How Do I Apply for a Food Business Licence?

This will depend on whether you’re starting a new food business or taking over an existing one. There are different application processes for different situations so you should contact your local council first. Also, if you are planning on building or renovating a food business you might need planning approval as well.

To get registered, you will usually have to let your council know about:

  • The type of food business you want to register - for example, non-profit organisations, charities or retail food businesses.
  • Who the business will be serving too - for example, the general public, children, the elderly or hospital patients.
  • The types of food you will be preparing - for example, high-risk, low-risk and/or potentially hazardous.
  • Where your business is based and when it’s open - for example, home-based business, market stall, food van or restaurant.

While there are some food businesses that don’t need to be registered or hold a food business licence, they’ll still need to notify their council about their food-related plans.  

What Are Class 1, 2, 3 and 4 Food Businesses?

The local council will classify a food business as either class 1, 2, 3 or 4, according to its food safety risk. The class a business is put into will let the business know if it needs to be registered and what its food safety responsibilities are. So, what do the food business classes mean?

  • Class 1 - food businesses that prepare and serve food to vulnerable people, including aged care centres, child care centres, hospitals and meals-on-wheels.
  • Class 2 - retail food businesses that prepare and sell potentially hazardous food, including cafés, restaurants, home-based food businesses, food vans, catering businesses and canteens.
  • Class 3 - community groups that handle potentially hazardous food which is sold for immediate consumption and businesses that produce low-risk food, including bakeries, honey processors, soft drink manufacturers, wineries, confectionery manufacturer and cinemas selling popcorn.
  • Class 4 - community groups selling biscuits, tea, coffee, packaged cakes (other than cream-filled cakes), and businesses that sell pre-packaged food, including liquor bottle shops, milk bars that sell milk, newsagents, supermarkets and service stations (not selling potentially hazardous food).

The Victorian Department of Health provides a list of businesses that have already been classified on their website. But, because each business is judged on a case-by-case basis it’s only intended as a guide and you should still talk to your local council first. 

Class 1 and 2 businesses need to have a Food Safety Supervisor. It’s the Food Safety Supervisor’s job to maintain the overall food safety of the business, including the food safety program. When registering as a food business, the local council will need a copy of the Food Safety Supervisor’s Statement of Attainment. This certificate needs to have the units of competency for the business’s food sector printed on it.   

Class 1 and 2 food businesses also need to have a food safety program because they prepare potentially hazardous food. This’s a ‘live document’ that must be kept on the premises and shows how the business keeps the food it sells safe to eat.

Class 3 and 4 businesses will not need a food safety program or Food Safety Supervisor but class 3 businesses do need to keep basic food safety records.

Most class 1, 2 or 3 businesses will need to be registered with their council, while class 4 will most likely only have to notify their council of their intended food-related activities.

Starting a New Food Business in Victoria

If you’re starting a new business, you’ll need to complete an application form and submit the business’s proposed floor plans to your council. Usually, the floor plans should:

  • Show the layout of all fixtures, fittings and equipment.  
  • Provide a description of the materials that will be used for surface finishes including walls, floors and benchtops.  
  • Show the locations of the waste disposal areas, bin washing areas, storage areas and toilets.

After assessing your application, the council will tell you if you need to make any changes.

The next step is having an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) inspect the business premises, including the food safety program and Food Safety Supervisor documents if required. When both the EHO and the council are happy that the business complies with all food safety laws, you will be able to register your business.  

The registration cost is different depending on your council. It normally lasts 12 months and after that, you’ll need to complete an application for renewal of registration every year.

Transferring the Registration of an Existing Business in Victoria

If you’re buying an existing food business then you’ll need to complete a transfer of registration form. This will transfer the business’s registration from the previous owner’s name to yours. You will also need to submit a food safety program and the details of the Food Safety Supervisor that’ll be nominated in your business.

Also, before you buy a food business you can submit a ‘Property Enquiry’ to the council. This lets you know if the business has any outstanding issues under the Food Act 1984, which is Victoria’s main piece of food safety legislation. Please note that there is a fee involved in having this done and you need the permission of the current business owner.

Once the council is happy that your application meets all food safety requirements, you’ll have to pay the required fees and will get a transfer of registration certificate. After this, you’ll be responsible for renewing the business’s registration every year.

This public health information was produced and distributed by the Australian Institute of Food Safety Foundation.