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School canteens

Food safety in school canteens is essential, particularly as children can be more vulnerable to foodborne illness.

School canteens are considered to be a retail food business as they sell food to the public and need to meet the following requirements.


Changes to the Food Standards Code - 3.2.2A Food Safety Management Tools

From Friday 8 December 2023, businesses that process unpackaged, potentially hazardous food, and sell or serve it ready-to-eat, are required to implement two or three tools depending on their food handling activities:

  • have a qualified onsite Food Safety Supervisor, who is reasonably available to supervise food handlers,
  • ensure all food handlers are trained in food safety and hygiene, or can demonstrate adequate skills and knowledge, and
  • maintain a record of their food safety risk management or be able to show their food is safe.

See Food Safety Management Tools for more information.

Notification, licensing

School canteens, as a food business, need to notify the local council of their business and food activity details.

From 1 September 2015, notification is satisfied via applications to local council for services, permits and approvals.

Food safety supervisor

School canteens are not required to appoint a Food Safety Supervisor.

The canteen manager is responsible for ensuring that all food handlers, including parents and volunteers, are confident and competent in the task they are asked to do.

See further information under Skills & knowledge.

Food safety controls

Canteen managers should ensure they and their staff:

  • do not prepare food for others if you they are ill and remember to cover up wounds
  • always wash hands thoroughly with warm soapy water and dry thoroughly with paper towel before and after touching food
  • tie hair back, remove or cover jewellery and wear clean protective clothing
  • keep raw meat in sealed containers at the bottom of the fridge so juices don't run onto other foods
  • keep cold food cold and hot food hot
  • store ready to eat foods above vegetables and meat in the fridge
  • always sanitise or change chopping boards and utensils every time they ares used for raw food
  • keep the canteen free from vermin and animals by closing doors, using windows with screens, cleaning equipment and discarding of rubbish effectively.


Your local council will inspect your school canteen to ensure it meets the food safety standards in the Food Standards Code.

For more information visit the inspections section of the website.

Skills & knowledge

The canteen manager is responsible for ensuring that all food handlers, including parents and volunteer, are confident and competent in the task they are asked to do.

Food handlers should have knowledge and skills appropriate to the type of food they are receiving preparing, storing and serving, particularly if it is hazardous (raw meat, eggs) or is not going to be thoroughly cooked before it is eaten.

All volunteers should have a basic understanding of:

  • why bacteria grow
  • how to avoid cross contamination
  • personal hygiene requirements
  • temperature control for cooking, reheating, cooling, defrosting, storing and displaying foods..

Premises construction

Operators of school canteens need to ensure:

  • adequate hand washing facilities are available - check with local council on what is considered adequate
  • food is kept protected from pests and vermin at all stages, including storage of ingredients
  • premises are designed to exclude pests where practical
  • adequate refrigeration capacity is essential - overloading domestic refrigerators and constantly opening the door means food takes longer to cool and harmful microorganisms have more chance to grow
  • refrigerate foods in small portions to allow proper cooling
  • refrigerated foods should be kept below 5°C.

Legislation & standards

School canteens need to practice safe food handling and preparation to meet the same food safety requirements as other retail food businesses.

This includes: