Businesses that import food or food ingredients for retail sale in Australia are considered a food business.
They are legally responsible for the safety and correct labelling of the food sold.
Importers that sell product at retail level are required to notify the local council of their business and food activity details.
From 1 September 2015 notification is satisfied by notifying councils via applications for services, permits and approvals.
- contact your local council
Importers that do not retail food and ingredients need to notify the NSW Food Authority of their business and food activity details.
You need to keep your notification up to date if any of your details change after you have notified, so it's a good idea to keep your reference number.
Notification records are private for each food business, so if you purchase an existing business you need to notify the business again with your details.
Food safety supervisors
Businesses that import food or ingredients for wholesale into Australia are not required to appoint a Food Safety Supervisor.
Food safety controls
As a food importer, you must make sure the food you import contains ingredients/additives that are permitted in Australia/New Zealand before the food is available for sale to the public.
You can do this by getting in touch with your supplier, who may be overseas, and obtaining ingredient information documents, product specification sheets and sample labels.
It's good practice to check both the compositional properties and labelling information against the various requirements of the Food Standards Code to ensure the food can be legally sold.
Having the correct label on food sold in Australia and New Zealand means food can be recalled if there is a risk to consumers. For example, a food product may have an allergen not listed on the label which can have dire consequences for an allergy sufferer.
To check food is suitable for sale in Australia you should:
- review ingredient documents and/or a copy of the label from the supplier/manufacturer against the requirements in Parts 1.2, 1.3 and 1.4 of the Food Standards Code
- if your importing business doesn’t have the necessary expertise in-house, you may require the services of a suitably qualified expert (eg a lawyer, food consultant or technologist, consulting laboratory, or possibly the supplier or manufacturer of the food)
- if the food does not meet the Code’s compositional requirements for ingredients and additives, you cannot legally sell it in Australia and New Zealand unless it is reformulated
- if the food does not meet the Code’s labelling requirements, it must be relabelled to cover the incorrect information before it can be legally sold in Australia and New Zealand
- the required information must be in English and include your business name and Australian or New Zealand business address.
Importers must also have a recall plan in place, which is required under Food Safety Standard 3.2.2 of the Food Standards Code.
Businesses need to:
- have a plan for the recall of an unsafe food
- document the plan, ensuring it is available to an authorised officer upon request
- comply with the plan when recalling unsafe food
For help developing a food recall plan, see the Food Industry Recall Protocol - A guide to writing a food recall plan conducting a food recall, developed by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ). It has a step-by-step guide to developing a food recall plan and covers all the steps a business must take when recalling or withdrawing a product.
For a printed copy contact FSANZ on 1300 652 166 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are considering a possible recall of food produced or distributed by your business, you should contact the Food Authority’s Investigation and Recall Coordinator on 1300 552 406.
Under this legislation imported food is inspected and controlled using a risk-based border inspection program called the Imported Food Inspection Scheme, which is administered by the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.
Once inside NSW, food and premises may be inspected by the Food Authority and, if retailing occurs at the premises, by local council inspection officers.
Legislation & standards
If you import food for retail sale you must sure that the food meets the compositional and labelling requirements of:
- Food Act 2003
- Food Standards Code - all food imported into Australia must comply with relevant standards in the Food Standards Code (see below). Food importers are responsible for ensuring food they import meets all the requirements of the code
- Part 1.2 - Labelling and other information requirements
- Part 1.3 - Substances added to food
- Part 1.4 - Contaminants and residues
- Part 1.5 - Foods requiring pre-market clearance
Australian law requires all food to meet the food safety standards set out in the Food Standards Code, whether produced domestically or imported.