Retail meat premises (butchers)
Retail meat premises are butchers that process and sell meat for retail sale. Processing includes:
They may also include supermarkets and independent meat and poultry retailers.
- businesses that process ready to eat (RTE) or uncooked comminuted fermented (UCFM), eg salami products, also have additional requirements outlined for RTE & UCFM products below
- if large amounts of meat (more than 1 tonne in any week of a calendar year) are sold wholesale, these businesses need to see the meat processors page for information related to their business
- if businesses only sell pre-packaged meat, and do not process product, they instead need to comply with the requirements for general retail food outlets.
As an operator of a retail meat premises you need to:
- apply for a Food Authority licence online (or download a form, print and post it)
- pay an annual licence fee
- for UCFM: return a completed pro forma with your application
- meet food safety and labelling standards
- prepare for and be regularly audited, and
- if exporting: contact the Australian Department of Agriculture for an export licence.
For more see licensing.
Skills & knowledge
It is a requirement of the licence that one staff member has completed a recognised food handling hygiene course & is able to produce a certificate proving course completing during audits.
Construction & facilities
Construction and layout of a food premise must be designed to minimise the opportunity for food contamination.
Retail meat premises must ensure that their fixtures, fittings, equipment and transport vehicles are designed and constructed in a manner that means they can be easily cleaned and, where necessary, sanitised.
Businesses must also ensure that the premises are provided with the necessary services of water, waste disposal, light, ventilation, cleaning and personal hygiene facilities, storage space and access to toilets.
The full requirements are set out in the NSW standard for construction and hygienic operation of retail meat premises.
Hygiene & handling
The NSW standard for construction and hygienic operation of retail meat premises details the minimum requirements operators need to meet.
It refers to health and hygiene, cleaning, sanitising and maintenance and construction.
A food handler must take all reasonable measures not to handle food or surfaces likely to come into contact with food in a way that is likely to compromise the safety and suitability of food.
Food businesses must ensure there are adequate facilities for food handlers to wash their hands. Hand wash facilities must be only used for washing hands, arms and face and should include warm running water, soap (or soap alternative) and single-use hand towel.
If a food handler believes they could have or be a carrier of a foodborne illness they must advise their supervisor and ensure they do not handle food that they could contaminate as a result of the disease.
Food handlers must ensure all food contact surfaces are kept clean and adequately protected from contamination.
See our fact sheets:
and the FSANZ guide Safe Food Australia.
Full requirements are set out in:
- Food Standards Code, Chapter 3, Standard 3.2.2, Division 4 - Health and Hygiene
- NSW standard for construction and hygienic operation of retail meat premises.
Food safety program & retail diary
Retail meat businesses need to develop and implement a documented food safety program which complies with the NSW standard for construction and hygienic operation of retail meat premises.
- general information on Food Safety Programs.
The NSW Retail Meat Food Safety Program & Retail Diary – which includes 1 years’ worth of dedicated monitoring forms, is available for free download.
Alternatively, printed copies can be purchased from the Food Authority for $55.00 (incl. GST and postage). Contact the helpline on 1300 552 406 to order.
The NSW Retail Meat Food Safety Program & Retail Diary is available in:
Addition of sulphur dioxide: SO₂
A food additive may only be added to food where permitted under Standard 1.3.1 (Food Additives).
Up to 500 mg/kg of sulphur dioxide and sodium and potassium sulphites may be added to sausage and sausage meat containing raw, unprocessed meat.
The Food Standards Code does not permit the use of sulphur dioxide, and sodium and potassium sulphites in raw meat, poultry and game, and therefore its presence in such products is an offence.
The Food Authority monitors compliance with these provisions. Any non-compliance will result in enforcement action without further warning.
Ready-to-eat & UCFM products
There are extra requirements for the production of RTE and UCFM products.
Any NSW business producing UCFM must complete a production process pro forma, which is a written description of the steps used to make a particular product.
The pro forma can demonstrate to the Food Authority that the production process used (fermentation, drying and smoking) is effective in reducing the numbers of E.coli to a safe level.
Copies of approval letters and the pro formas, along with food safety documentation, must be kept and made available during audits.
The Food Authority will review the pro forma and must provide approval before manufacture can begin.
In general, preservatives are used to maintain food safety and prolong product shelf life.
Sodium nitrite or potassium nitrite play a key role in the safety of processed meats.
Nitrites – or in slow cured meats sodium or potassium nitrates,which are gradually converted to nitrites – are the key ingredients in meat cures. They provide excellent protection against botulism in processed meats. They help give cured meats their characteristic colour and flavour.
Other preservatives inhibit the growth of microorganisms: sulphites – sources of sulphur dioxide – inhibit the growth of microorganisms while retaining the bloom of red meat.
Preservatives usedin processed meats are strictly regulated and monitored as some preservatives can have adverse affects on health if not used within the regulated limits. In particular:
- nitrates & nitrites in meat can be converted in the stomach or during high temperature frying to chemicals understood to cause cancer
- sulphur dioxide exposure can cause breathing difficulties in some people
- some uses of preservatives are incompatible with other manufacturing processes.
The Food Authority guide Preservative use in processed meats should be followed and processed meat formulations checked to ensure they comply.
Testing & contaminants
Retail meat businesses producing RTE and UCFM need to conduct microbiological testing of finished product to verify good manufacturing practice, ie hygiene and sanitation processes, and compliance with the product safety requirements of the Code.
Results must be recorded and used to improve food safety practices.
The testing program must be documented in the meat business food safety program. The documentation should include:
- the frequency of testing
- the product type and batches to be tested
- corrective action procedures, including handling of affected batches, should there be a positive test for L. monocytogenes.
See also Listeria Management Program.
Any product recall needs to comply with the provisions of the Code and the food safety program must document procedures for a product recall.
Product testing needs to be conducted in a NATA-accredited laboratory.
Testing & analysis
The NSW Food Safety Schemes Manual specifies the specific microbiological testing requirements.
Businesses should note:
- hygienic processing, and hygiene and sanitation require microbiological verification to demonstrate that processing and cleaning are meeting the required standard
- any analysis is at the licence holder’s expense. It needs to be conducted by a National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) or Food Authority approved laboratory.
- the licence holder needs to notify the Food Authority promptly if an analysed sample fails to meet the standards as detailed in the Manual or those set by the Authority.
- this notification to the Food Authority is to be made:
- verbally within 24 hours of becoming aware of the sample failure, and
- in writing within 7 days of becoming aware of the sample failure
Standard retail descriptions for uncooked, fresh beef help consumers know more about what they are buying and choose cuts that best suit their needs.
Beef labelling requirements place obligations on retailers when beef is labelled for sale.
AUS-MEAT’s Domestic Retail Beef Register is to be used for beef labelling requirements.
Retailers must comply with the register when labelling beef for sale.
|Standard retail description||approximate age at processing|
|Yearling||18 months or less|
|Young||18 months or 2.5 years|
|Intermediate||2.5 to 3 years|
|Mature||3 to 3.5 years|
|Economy||3.5 years or more|
‘Beef’ can be used in place of any retail description except ‘economy’. Economy beef must always be described.
Approved grading schemes have their own terminology and don’t have to use these descriptions.
Production or processing system claims
Any claims relating to production or processing systems must be accurate and able to be substantiated.
Retailers may not use any prohibited descriptions such as ‘A grade’, ‘Prime’ or ‘Lot fed’, among others.
If retailers use supplementary descriptions from the AUS-MEAT language such as ‘grain fed beef’ these must be accurate and able to be substantiated.
The following descriptions have no standard meaning and are not allowed:
Inspections & audits
Retail meat premises will be routinely audited by the Food Authority for compliance with requirements.
Compliance or regulatory action will be taken if required.
There are fees for audits and inspections, payable by the licence holder.
For more see audits of licensed businesses.
Legislation & standards
Operators of meat retail premises also need to meet all relevant requirements of the:
- Food Act 2003 (NSW)
- Food Regulation 2015, including relevant parts of the Meat Food Safety Scheme
- Food Standards Code, including:
- NSW standard for construction and hygienic operation of retail meat premises
If your business sells large amounts of meat wholesale (more than one tonne in any week of a calendar year) see the meat processors page.