Who is Responsible for the Food Safety of a Business?

A guide to help you understand your role and responsibility in establishing high quality, clean and safe food in Australia.
Who is Responsible for the Food Safety of a Business?
June 29, 2016

In this article, we’ll present a guide to help you understand your role and responsibility in establishing high quality, clean and safe food in Australia, and who to contact if you need help interpreting the Food Standards Code.

According to FSANZ, Australia ranks fourth in the world in food safety. However, the daily number of food poisoning cases in Australia is estimated at 11,500, with the rate of salmonella increasing 80 per cent over the past decade and gastroenteritis surging 75 per cent in the same time.

In fact, 120 people die of food poisoning in Australia each year. Food safety is everyone’s responsibility.

Business Owner

A food business' owner has a legal responsibility to its customers’ welfare to protect their health and safety.

A business owner must:

  • Notify the local council with details of their food business
  • Ensure the business complies with the Food Standards Code
  • Ensure the food business is protected by an FSS who is reasonably available at all times
  • Appoint an FSS from the time food is first handled and sold
  • Keep the FSS Statement of Attainment on premises as evidence of the food business’ commitment to food safety
  • Appoint a new FSS within 30 operational days (i.e. days that food is processed and sold) of the FSS leaving or ceasing to act in that role
  • Have a Food Safety Plan and food safety processes in place
  • Ensure all food handlers are adequately trained
  • Ensure the FSS has a reasonable time in each day to contribute to FSS tasks and duties

Food Safety Supervisor

A Food Safety Supervisor is an employee, licensee, manager, or external contractor nominated by a food business to manage its food safety. A business manager can also nominate themselves to perform the role of FSS.

For a more comprehensive description of an FSS, please read our article 'What Is A Food Safety Supervisor?'

A Food Safety Supervisor has an array of duties which relate to maintaining and improving a business’ food safety. To responsibly manage a business’ food safety, an FSS must:

  • Demonstrate the authority to act as an FSS with a Statement of Attainment from a nationally registered RTO
  • Supervise staff in food handling to ensure compliance with food safety regulations
  • Manage the food business’ Food Safety Plan and Food Safety Program
  • If away, ensure the food business is protected and maintains high standards of food safety in their absence

An FSS is a business’ food safety encyclopaedia and should keep up to date on changes to food safety regulations.

Food Handlers

A food handler is a person who directly engages in the handling or preparation of food. Food handlers also include staff who handle or deliver food.

Food handlers must:

  • Have skills and knowledge relevant to their food duties
  • Follow the protocol set by the Food Safety Supervisor
  • Take all reasonable measures to maintain food integrity and keep customers safe

The Role of Government

Federal Government

In Australia, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) develops and manages the Food Standards Code, which documents legal requirements for additives, nutrition, storage, labelling, and GM foods.

State And Territory Authorities

Australian Capital Territory

New South Wales

Northern Territory



South Australia


Western Australia

These state and territory authorities enforce and interpret the Food Standards Code, investigating:

  • Food‐borne illness
  • Foreign matter in food
  • Food composition
  • Labelling of food products
  • Misleading conduct by food businesses
  • Food safety issues in State Government food businesses

Local Government

Local councils enforce the legislation and policies set by:

Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) who represent local councils can enter a food business and perform a health inspection at any time to check that a business is operating within safe boundaries.

Local councils regulate:

  • Food safety in retail, hospitality, health, food processing, food transport, and food distribution
  • Food safety in community organisations and events

Examples of food businesses which local governments regulate include:

  • Restaurants, cafes, and takeaway food shops
  • Fruit and vegetable shops processing (cutting) fruit and vegetables
  • Delicatessens (in supermarkets)
  • Mobile food vehicles selling unpackaged food
  • Child care centres, aged care facilities, and private hospitals
  • Private school canteens
  • Food manufacturers
  • Wholesale and retail distribution centres

Operating a food business involves meeting various requirements to keep your customers safe. Here is an outline of the steps you need to take to start a food business in Australia