The NSW Food Authority and NSW Government recognise the valuable work charities, organisations and volunteers do in providing or selling food for charitable purposes.
This includes providing food free of charge during emergencies like bushfires or other natural disasters.
The special role of charities and community groups has been recognised in food laws and certain exemptions apply to help make sure these organisations can continue their valuable work in the community.
When providing food for other people, it’s important to consider the food safety aspects.
Providing food for free or donating food
The regulations applying to food businesses, including those which require notification and/or licensing for the food activities, do not apply to anyone providing food free of charge as they are not considered to be a food business.
- making food for volunteer fire fighters during the bushfire season
- a free sausage-sizzle for the junior soccer players
- providing food for people experiencing homelessness.
You should always follow standard food safety practices when processing, handling and storing food to keep the recipients well and healthy.
For more information on donating food see our fact sheet Donating food.
Selling food for a fundraising event
Anyone who sells food at a fundraising event for community or charitable causes is not required to notify the local council (as required by food laws), unless selling food that:
- could pose a health risk, that is, it's potentially hazardous food such as any food that needs to be kept hot or under refrigeration to be safe
- is not thoroughly cooked and eaten immediately.
Examples of food not requiring notification (as required by food laws) include:
- school fetes where the proceeds are donated to a charitable organisation or the school
- a lamington drive to raise money for the victims of a natural disaster
- selling chocolates to raise money for the Red Cross.
Even though not required by food laws, there are other reasons to contact the local council and let it know the fundraising event is happening.
Maintaining food safety for those who will eat the food is still very important. See our key tips.
Food that could pose a health risk
- cooking a large amount of a meat-based food that will be stored and transported to an event prior to reheating and serving
- ready-to-eat foods that would normally be refrigerated to keep them safe such as raw shellfish, cooked meats or cooked rice
- dairy or egg-based desserts.
These sorts of meals have more potential for public health problems than a Vegemite sandwich or pack of dried biscuits.
There are significant food safety issues, such as temperature control, thorough cooking, cross-contamination and storage, and knowing about any allergenic ingredients that need to be considered by food handlers.
Training and skills
People who are preparing food to be sold to raise money for charitable purposes do not require specific cooking or food handling skills provided the food:
- does not pose a possible health risk (that is, it needs temperature control)
- is thoroughly cooked and eaten immediately.
Nor does the event need to have a designated Food Safety Supervisor.
Where the food may pose a health risk and is not consumed immediately after thorough cooking, food handlers need to have practical skills and knowledge appropriate to the type of food they are preparing to protect public health.
For instance, a volunteer making:
- Vegemite sandwiches would not require any specific skills or knowledge about food safety
- a large number of hot meals with numerous ingredients would need to understand temperature control and how to avoid cross contamination. This is to protect public health.
All food handlers need to maintain hygiene.
Further details on food safety courses, which are optional, can be obtained by contacting your local TAFE college.
When to notify fundraising events
Any organisation selling food for a community or charitable purpose needs to notify the local council (as required by food laws) only if it is selling food that:
- could pose a health risk (such as requiring temperature control to maintain safety)
- food that is not thoroughly cooked and consumed immediately.
Notification allows the investigators to assess risks and trace the source of a possible foodborne illness outbreak.
How to notify a fundraising event
From 1 September 2015, the NSW Food Authority recognises that other transactions with the local council such as applications for council services, permits and approvals, satisfy the notification requirement under food laws.