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Meat & poultry processing plants

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Meat and poultry processing plants are premises where meat (including game meat) for human consumption is processed, treated, boned, cut up, packed, packaged or stored.

This includes raw meat, the production of ready-to-eat (RTE) meat such as ham, beef jerky and biltong, and uncooked comminuted fermented meat (UCFM) products such as salami, chorizo, and pepperoni.

Meat includes:

  • bovine (cow, ox, buffalo); bubaline (antelope); camel; caprine (goat); cervidae (deer); ovine (sheep); porcine (pig); soliped (horse) species
  • any bird including ratite (emu)
  • rabbit
  • crocodile

Meat processing plants do not include:

Licensing, registration

Operators of meat processing plants are required to:

  1. apply for a Food Authority licence online or download an application form (PDF, 418 KB), print and post it
  2. meet food standards
  3. for UCFM: return a completed pro forma with your application
  4. prepare for routine inspections or audits.

Before being issued with a licence, the Food Authority inspect the premises to ensure all buildings and equipment meet the relevant standards.

For more information see applying for a food licence.

Skills & knowledge

There are no formal food safety qualifications required.

However, each food handler or person in control of a food business is required to have food safety skills and knowledge appropriate to their food handling activities.

For a guide see FSANZ Safe Food Australia Division 2.

Requirements are set out in the Food Standards Code, Standard 3.2.2 - Food Safety Practices and General Requirements, clause 3.

Construction & facilities

Construction and layout of a food premise needs to be designed to minimise the opportunity for food contamination.

Meat and poultry processors need to ensure that their food premises, 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 need to 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.

See the FSANZ guide chapter 3.2.3 Safe Food Australia

Requirements are set out in the Food Standards Code, Chapter 3, Standard 3.2.3 - Food Premises and Equipment

See also the additional requirements for processing meat products:

Constructing a meat processing facility

Companies and members of the public who are interested in building a meat processing facility in NSW often require assistance to interpret the requirements of the detailed and comprehensive Australian Standard (AS:4696:2007).

The Food Authority has developed a basic plan to serve as a guide for anyone interested in seeing an example layout of a small meat processing facility. This plan is for information purposes only and is not a directive on how a facility must be built. The Food Authority recommends professional advice is obtained when developing meat processing facilities.

Cleaning & sanitation

Meat and poultry processors must implement a documented cleaning schedule that identifies:

  • all fixtures, fittings and equipment used in the processing of meat and products
  • frequency of cleaning
  • how all fixtures, fittings and equipment are cleaned and sanitised
  • how food contact surfaces and utensils are sanitised (where applicable)
  • chemical usage eg. strength, contact times, temperature.

All fixtures, fittings and equipment must be adequate for the production of safe and suitable food, and fit for their intended use.

Routine internal cleaning and sanitation inspections must be undertaken, and records maintained for corrective action taken on any identified issues.

Cleaning chemicals must be suitable for contact with food and used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

See also the individual standards listed on this page under 'Construction & facilities'

Food safety controls

Food safety controls include the requirements for food handling from receipt to disposal. They also include food recall requirements.

Food Safety Program

Meat processing businesses need to develop and implement a documented food safety program.

This shows the business has examined its food production activities and identified all potential food safety hazards. It outlines how the hazards are controlled, corrective action if they are not controlled, a schedule for regular reviews of the program, and appropriate records to keep.

The NSW Food Authority has developed a food safety program template that businesses can adapt to suit business requirements.

For further information and a starting template see food safety programs.

Meat Safety Inspector

Abattoirs and game meat processing plants must not operate unless a meat safety inspector has been appointed and approved in writing by the Food Authority.

Product recalls

Any product recall needs to comply with the Code.

In addition, a food safety program needs to document procedures for product recall.

Product testing must be conducted in a National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) accredited laboratory.

The Food Authority has a Listeria Management Program for reference.

See also recalls.

Adding sulphur dioxide: SO₂

A food additive may only be added to food where expressly allowed under Food Standard 1.3.1 - Food Additives.

The Food Standards Code does not permit the use of sulphur dioxide, or sodium and potassium sulphites in raw meat, poultry or game cuts, and its presence is an offence.

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.

Follow the Food Authority guide Preservative use in processed meats. Processed meat formulations need to be checked to ensure they comply.

The Food Authority monitors compliance and non-compliance will result in enforcement action.


Meat branding

Operators need to ensure meat is not removed from the processing plant until the carcase or part of the carcase has been branded under authority of a meat safety inspector. This does not apply to meat from birds, meat fit only for animal food and meat not fit for animal food.

Required brands are set out in Division 3 of the Meat Food Safety Scheme and Schedule 6 of the Food Regulation 2010.

Animals slaughtered for export under the Export Control Act 1982 (Cth) need to be marked with an official mark under that Act.

Other labelling

Other requirements for product labelling apply, as set out in Food Standards Code, Chapter 1, Part 1.2 - Labelling and other Information Requirements and the FSANZ labelling user guides.

For an introduction and Food Authority factsheets see labelling

Testing & analysis

Ready-to-eat (RTE) product
Uncooked comminuted fermented meat (UCFM)

Licensed meat processing plants that produce ready-to-eat (RTE) or uncooked comminuted fermented meat (UCFM) products must comply with the requirements set out in the NSW Food Safety Schemes Manual.

The Manual specifies microbiological testing requirements for E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella to confirm that processing is hygienic and sanitary and meets the standard.

Importantly, you should know that:

  • Testing must involve the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) or a laboratory approved by the Food Authority
  • Any analysis is at the licence holder’s expense
  • If a sample does not meet the standards set out in the Manual, the licence holder must notify the Food Authority within 24 hours by phone, and within 7 days in writing.

Sampling & analysis

The Food Standards Code also lists requirements for manufacturing packaged ready-to-eat products.

The Code also prescribes microbiological limits for Listeria monocytogenes in specific products such as cooked and cured/salted meat, packaged heat-treated meat paste and packaged heat-treated pâté.

Meat retail (RTE and UCFM) businesses 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 to improve food safety practices and the testing program should be documented in the meat business food safety program including:

  • 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

Inspections & audits

On a scheduled basis, meat and poultry processing plants will be 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


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