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Preparing or storing plant products

Plant products businesses are operations that prepare or store plants for food including:

  • processing (ie. cutting, trimming, slicing, peeling, pulling apart) fruit or vegetables to produce fresh cut, ready-to-eat (RTE) products
  • sprouting and processing seed sprouts (except wheat grass and bean sprouts)
  • extraction or packaging of juice from fruit or vegetables where the juice is not subsequently pasteurised
  • producing vegetables, fruit or herbs in oil
  • refrigerated storage of these plant products.

For transport of plant products see plant product transport vehicles

Licensing, registration

As an operator in the plant products industry you will need to:

  1. apply for a Food Authority licence online (or download a form, print and post it)
  2. meet relevant food standards
  3. prepare for and be regularly audited
  4. if exporting: contact the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources for an export certification or permit

For more see licensing.

Skills & knowledge

There are no formal qualifications required, however each food handler and 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 must be designed to minimise the opportunity for food contamination.

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.

For a guide, see FSANZ Safe Food Australia

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

Hygiene & handling

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.

When preparing or storing plant products, food handlers must exercise personal hygiene and health practices so the food is suitable for sale by:

  • wearing clean clothing at the start of each day
  • not handling food if they know, or suspect, they have an illness for example, vomiting or diarrhoea
  • covering open wounds with a waterproof bandage
  • washing their hands whenever it is likely their hands could contaminate food for example, after visiting the toilet, after meal breaks
  • not smoking around product at any time.

For more information see our factsheets:

See also FSANZ guide Safe Food Australia.

Requirements are set out in Food Standards Code, Chapter 3, Standard 3.2.2, Division 4 - Health and Hygiene.

Food safety controls

Food Safety Program

A plant products business that prepares or prepares and stores plant products needs to have a documented food safety management program that effectively controls food hazards.

Food safety programs are not needed for businesses that only store plant products, however.

The NSW Food Authority, with the assistance of industry, has developed a 3-part document to help businesses in the plant products industry develop and implement a food safety program:

  1. General Guidelines for the Development and Implementation of a Food Safety Program
  2. Food Safety Program Template
  3. Industry Guide for the Development of a Food Safety Program (High Priority Plant Products)

If you choose to use the industry assistance material, you need to ensure the food safety program reflects the processes and practices within your business and that all potential food safety hazards are identified and controlled.

This industry assistance material is a guide only and you must not assume it covers all food safety hazards in your business.

See also FSANZ guide to Standard 3.2.1.

The requirements are set out in Food Standards Code Standard 3.2.1 Food Safety Programs.

Melon Food Safety

Melons, especially rockmelons, have potential for contamination due to the proximity to soil during production and their rough netted skin.

Basic principles that underpin food safety programs should be followed by all growers and packers to minimise food safety risks.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries Melon Food Safety Best Practice Guide and Melon Food Safety Toolbox outline the food safety principles and practices for pre and post harvest handling of melons that are generally washed before shipping to markets.

Labelling

Requirements for labelling of product apply.

For an introduction and Food Authority factsheets see labelling and FSANZ labelling user guides.

Requirements are set out in Food Standards Code, Chapter 1, Part 1.2 - Labelling and other Information Requirements.

Testing

Licensed plant products businesses need to comply with the product testing requirements set out in the NSW Food Safety Schemes Manual.

The Manual specifies that licensed plant product businesses must test for:

Salmonella in:

  • seeds used for sprouting
  • spent irrigation water used for seed sprouting
  • fresh cut fruit
  • fresh cut vegetables
  • unpasteurised juice

E.Coli in:

  • seed sprouts (finished product)
  • non-reticulated water used in connection with the production and processing of plant products

Listeria monocytogenes

  • fresh cut fruit
  • fresh cut vegetables

Testing frequencies and acceptable result levels are outlined in the manual.

Further information to note:

  • Any analysis is at the licence holder’s expense and 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 if an analysed sample fails to meet the standards as detailed in the Manual or those set by the Food 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

Inspections & audits

Businesses will be routinely checked by the Food Authority for compliance with requirements.

Compliance or regulatory action will be taken if required.

There are fees for inspections, payable by the licence holder.

For more see audits of licensed businesses.

Legislation & standards

Plant product storage businesses will also need to meet the requirements of the:

  1. Food Act 2003 (NSW)
  2. Food Regulation 2015, including the Plant Products Food Safety Scheme
  3. Food Standards Code, including -
  4. NSW Food Safety Schemes Manual

 

Resources