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.
School canteens now have until 8 December 2024 to comply with new food safety requirements, introduced under Standard 3.2.2A of the Food Standards Code. The requirements are outlined in each of the sections below, as well as in our PDF guideline:
- Standard 3.2.2A guideline for school canteens (PDF, 336 KB)
School canteens must notify their business details to their local council. How you notify your details will depend on the council. It may involve applying for a service, permit or approval, or completing a food business notification form. Checking their website is a good place to start.
From 8 December 2024, school canteens will be required to appoint a Food Safety Supervisor if the food they prepare and serve is:
- potentially hazardous (needs temperature control), and
- not sold and served in the supplier's original package.
An FSS is someone associated with the business who is certified to have skills and knowledge in food safety, especially around high-risk foods. Training is delivered by approved Registered Training Organisations (RTOs).
There are 2 learning pathways in NSW to achieve FSS certification – hospitality and retail. School canteen staff and volunteers can qualify to be an FSS through either pathway. In NSW the course must include either:
Two hospitality units:
- SITXFSA005 – Use hygiene practices for food safety
- SITXFSA006 – Participate in safe food handling practices
- One retail unit: SIRRFSA001 – Handle food safely in a retail environment.
See Food Safety Supervisors for more information, including how to obtain a certificate.
School canteens selling unpackaged, potentially hazardous, ready-to-eat food, must ensure their food handlers have appropriate skills and knowledge in food safety and hygiene under Standard 3.2.2A of the Code. This applies to school canteens from 8 December 2024 and is different to the Food Safety Supervisor requirement.
Canteens can choose how food handlers are trained. They may use or recognise free online food safety training programs, past experience, internal training tailored to suit their own procedures, or courses from vocational training providers.
Additional training is not needed if food handlers can already demonstrate adequate skills and knowledge for their duties.
See Food Handler Basics training for more information and to access the NSW Food Authority’s free training course.
From 8 December 2024, school canteens that undertake higher risk food handling need to be able to demonstrate safe food practices under Standard 3.2.2A of the Code. This requirement ensures the business is actively monitoring and managing key risks related to food temperature control, food processing, and cleaning and sanitising, which are critical for food safety.
It applies to canteens that process potentially hazardous food into a food that is ready-to-eat and potentially hazardous, and serve it to consumers. “Process” is defined as chopping, cooking, drying, fermenting, heating, thawing and/or washing.
Specific risks must be controlled, relating to:
- food receipt
- pathogen reduction (cooking)
- minimising time during food processing
- cooling food
- reheating food
- cleaning and sanitising.
Canteens can meet this requirement by:
- demonstrating safe food practices, and/or
- keeping records.
For more information, including templates for recording keeping, see Showing food is safe.
Canteen managers will still need to 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, at 5°C or below, and hot food hot at 60°C or above
- store ready-to-eat foods above vegetables and meat in the fridge
- always sanitise or change chopping boards and utensils every time they are 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.
Operators of school canteens will still 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.
School canteens will still need to practice safe food handling and preparation to meet the same food safety requirements as other retail food businesses.
- notifying the local council of their business and food activity details
- meeting the requirements of the Food Standards Code