New requirements to help food businesses serve safer food are now in effect throughout Australia.
Standard 3.2.2A of the Food Standards Code applies to food service and retail businesses that serve unpackaged, potentially hazardous, ready-to-eat food.
It delivers a nationally consistent approach to strengthening food safety management, with the aim of reducing rates of foodborne illness.
While the vast majority of food in Australia is safe, a Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) risk profile for food service and related food retail businesses found the sector accounted for about two-thirds of reported foodborne illness outbreaks nationally.
Food handling errors, such as improper temperature control, poor personal hygiene and cross contamination, were consistently identified as contributing factors.
FSANZ identified more was needed to address the unique challenges of the sector which is fast paced, with a highly mobile, diverse and largely untrained workforce. It also noted introducing training and record requirements typically led to improvements in food safety.
Standard 3.2.2A introduces three food safety management tools:
Food Safety Supervisor
food handler training
substantiation of critical food safety controls.
It classifies businesses into two categories depending on their food handling.
A ‘category one’ business is a caterer or food service that processes potentially hazardous food into a food that is potentially hazardous and ready-to-eat. Category one businesses must implement all 3 tools.
‘Category two’ businesses offer for retail sale unpackaged, potentially hazardous, ready-to-eat food they have not made themselves. These businesses may slice, weigh, repack, reheat, or hot-hold the food, but do not process it in any other way.
Category two businesses must implement 2 tools – Food Safety Supervisor and food handler training.
Food Safety Supervisor
A Food Safety Supervisor is someone associated with the business who is certified in the past 5 years to have skills and knowledge in food safety. Training is delivered by registered training organisations.
Most food service businesses in NSW, ACT, Queensland and Victoria were already required to have a Food Safety Supervisor. The Standard brings a national approach, with some differences between jurisdictions on its implementation.
A Food Safety Supervisor must have the authority and ability to manage and give direction on safe food handling, and be reasonably available to do so.
Food handler training
Anyone in the business who handles unpackaged, potentially hazardous, ready-to-eat food must have either completed a food safety training course or have appropriate skills and knowledge of food safety and hygiene for their duties.
A range of training options can be utilised, including internal training tailored to suit the business’s activities.
If opting for a food safety training course, it must incorporate safe handling of food, food contamination, cleaning and sanitising of food premises and equipment and personal hygiene.
Additional training may not be needed if food handlers already have appropriate skills and knowledge.
Many government agencies provide a free online course for food handlers on food safety and hygiene.
Substantiation of critical food safety controls
Businesses that undertake higher risk food handling (category one) need to be able to demonstrate safe food practices to ensure they are actively monitoring and managing critical food safety risks.
This requirement can be met by keeping records, however, records are not needed if the business can show in another way that risks have been managed, for example following standard operating procedures, or being able to walk-and-talk an authorised officer through practices and processes.
There are 9 ‘prescribed provisions’ the businesses must substantiate: receipt, storage, display, transport, pathogen reduction during processing, cooling, and reheating of potentially hazardous food, and cleaning and sanitising. These are outlined in Standard 3.2.2 of the Code.
Standard 3.2.2A was gazetted 8 December 2022 and became enforceable from 8 December 2023.
For more information on Standard 3.2.2A in NSW, see Standard 3.2.2A Food Safety Management Tools.
This article first appeared in the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology'sfood australia journal.