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Powers of authorised officers

The NSW Food Authority officers enforce the Food Act 2003 (NSW) and the Food Regulation 2015 relating to food production and point of sale.

The Act and Regulation:

  • set out the legal obligations of owners and employees engaged in the food industry
  • set out the Food Authority’s functions and responsibilities
  • describe the legislative objectives and outcomes and set out the maximum penalties for non compliance
  • assign various powers to the Authority and its authorised officers to administer and enforce the law.

The Act and Regulation are supported by the Australian Food Standards Code and other guidance material.

Role of an authorised officer

Food Authority officers are authorised officers under the Act. They are responsible for ensuring that all persons and organisations meet their food safety obligations and requirements under the Act.

Officers can visit premises and property at random or as part of a specific targeted program. They may investigate complaints about labelling and food production or conduct an audit or inspection without prior warning.

Officers may:

  • provide information, education and advice on the requirements of food safety law and food standards
  • explain the Food Authority’s role and services
  • provide advice on how to develop and improve systems to comply with food production and labelling requirements
  • monitor compliance with or investigate breaches of legislation, including conducting interviews with management and staff
  • investigate cases of foodborne illness
  • investigate reports of unclean or unhealthy conditions
  • initiate compliance action, such as improvement notices, prohibition orders, penalty notices and prosecutions.

The officer may be accompanied by a NSW Police officer or anyone considered necessary. They will talk to a range of people in order to gather information, provide advice or take appropriate action to improve food safety.

All officers carry photographic identification and will produce it upon request.

Powers officers have

An officer has the power to:

  • enter and investigate any premises or food transport vehicle which they believe is being used for food intended for sale
  • request someone’ s name and residential address and conduct interviews and make enquiries
  • take photographs, films or audio or visual recordings and samples
  • examine food intended for sale, labelling or advertising material, including opening packaging
  • gather information, examine and take or copy any records or documents and retain them for any reasonably necessary time
  • open and examine any equipment
  • demand, select and obtain samples of any food or thing
  • take samples of water, soil or anything that is part of the environment to determine whether that environment poses a food safety risk
  • stop and detain any vehicle used for storage and transport of food
  • open, or require to be opened, any container used for goods, or any package
  • take measurements, and make sketches or drawings or any other type of record
  • undertake investigations and enquiries to assess whether an offence has been or is being committed under the Act or Regulation
  • seize food, vehicle, equipment, package or labelling or advertising material etc
  • issue directions
  • issue notices:
    • requiring owners and operators to remedy non-compliance with the Act and Regulation
    • prohibiting food production and sale continuing until the breach is fixed
    • for on-the-spot fines for breaches of the legislation.

Officers may call on scientific experts, NSW Police and anyone necessary to carry out their duties.

Payment for samples

When obtaining a sample of food an officer must offer to pay for it, up to a maximum of $10, depending on market value.

If the market value of the sample exceeds $10, the maximum amount payable is $10.

When an authorised officer enters property or premises

Officers have wide powers of entry. Food business owners should ensure that:

  • security staff and other staff are briefed about the rights of officers
  • officers are not obstructed in any way.

Where there is a food related issue, an officer will evaluate the situation in line with the NSW DPI Biosecurity and Food Safety Compliance and Enforcement Policy. The evaluation takes into account:

  • the nature and seriousness of the problem
  • whether the food business is committed to improving and maintaining food safety .

Although officers are expected to comply with a workplace’s security and safety requirements, their powers under the Food Act 2003 prevail over any other laws in relation to food for sale.

Offences against authorised officers

It is an offence for a person, without a reasonable excuse, to:

  • fail to comply with a requirement of an authorised officer
  • intentionally resist, obstruct, or attempt to obstruct, impersonate, threaten, intimidate or assault an authorised officer in the course of his or her duties
  • without the permission of an authorised officer: detain, remove or tamper with any food, vehicle, equipment, package or labelling or advertising material or other thing that has been seized
  • provide any information or produce any document that the person knows is false or misleading.

Penalties for offences against officers

Offences against officers conducting their duties under the Food Act 2003 (NSW) can incur a maximum penalty of 500 penalty units ($55,000).

Once the Food Authority has investigated an offence, it will determine whether to prosecute the offence in accordance with the NSW DPI Biosecurity and Food Safety Compliance and Enforcement Policy.

Qualifications of Food Authority authorised officers

Many Food Authority officers hold tertiary qualifications in health and food safety related disciplines.

To qualify as an authorised officer they must complete an intensive training program. Officers regularly attend specialist courses and briefings to make sure their skills and knowledge are at the forefront of food industry best practice.

Officers are based in metropolitan and regional offices throughout NSW.

Complaints about authorised officers

Complaints in relation to an authorised officer can be made to:

Director of Compliance & Enforcement
NSW Food Authority
PO Box 6682
Silverwater NSW 1811
1300 552 406