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Seafood retailers

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Seafood retailers need to meet the same food safety requirements as cafes, restaurants and retail outlets.

Changes for seafood retailers

Recent changes to the Food Standards Code introduced new food safety requirements for businesses that handle and serve unpackaged, potentially hazardous, ready-to-eat food. The requirements for seafood retailers are outlined in each of the sections below.

See also:

Notification, licensing

Seafood retailers need to notify their local council of their business and food activity details.

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. 

Businesses that wholesale seafood need to be licensed with the NSW Food Authority.

Food Safety Supervisors

Seafood retailers need to appoint a Food Safety Supervisor in their business if food they prepare and serve:

  • ready-to-eat
  • potentially hazardous (needs temperature control)  
  • NOT sold and served in the supplier's original package (for example, cooked prawns).

The aim of the Food Safety Supervisor is to prevent individuals becoming ill from food poisoning as a result of incorrect handling and preparation of food.  

To find out where to get training and what you need to do, see Food Safety Supervisors

Food handler skills

Seafood retailers 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 is different to the Food Safety Supervisor requirement.

Businesses 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. 

Showing food is safe

Businesses 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 businesses 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 relating to potentially hazardous food must be controlled, including for:  

  • food receipt  
  • storage  
  • display  
  • transport  
  • pathogen reduction (cooking)  
  • minimising time during food processing  
  • cooling food  
  • reheating food  
  • cleaning and sanitising.  

Businesses 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

See also Standard 3.2.2A – Frequently asked questions.

Food safety controls

The Food Standards Code (Standard 3.2.2 Clauses 13-18) outlines health and hygiene requirements for food handlers. 

This includes food handlers notifying supervisors of any disease or illness they may be suffering from, as well as hand washing and personal hygiene requirements.

To meet this standard you and your staff will need to demonstrate:

  • the required skills in and knowledge of food safety and food hygiene relative to work activities  
  • good hand washing practices
  • smoking is not permitted in food handling areas
  • staff with communicable illnesses do not work or are assigned to non-food handling areas or non-food handling duties
  • staff have clean uniforms or clothing
  • utensils or other suitable methods are used when handling food to minimise the risk of cross contamination
  • hand washing facilities have soap, paper towel (or other approved means) and warm running potable water
  • a probe thermometer - ie can be inserted into the food - is readily available and accurate to +/- 1°C
  • the temperature of potentially hazardous food is monitored regularly and temperatures recorded.

Purchasing and receiving food safely

Standard 3.2.2 of the Food Standards Code outlines the measures a business must take to help ensure that food is received safely.

These requirements include ensuring the food has been protected from likely contamination, food is received at the correct temperature and information is available on who has supplied or manufactured the food and what the food is.

The following points will help you demonstrate compliance with this standard:

  • the temperature of potentially hazardous food - eg seafood, should be checked upon receipt and only accepted if the temperature is equal to or below 5°C. This is generally only possible if the transport vehicle is refrigerated or sufficient ice has been used
  • deliveries of frozen product should only be accepted if the product is hard frozen - ie no apparent thawing
  • food should only be accepted if there is no evidence of contamination of the product - eg packaging is undamaged, ready-to-eat seafood has not been in contact with raw seafood
  • sufficient information should be supplied with the product to identify who has supplied, manufactured, packed or imported it, as well as identifying what the product is
  • seafood must be purchased from an approved source to ensure they have been harvested and handled safely:
  • under Food Regulation 2015 NSW seafood businesses are required to be licensed with the NSW Food Authority. You can check that your supplier is licensed by requesting a copy of their NSW Food Authority licence
  • seafood caught by recreational fishers, including fish from charity fish auctions, cannot be sold commercially
  • you must be able to demonstrate who you purchased food from. You must keep information relating to the name and business address of the vendor, manufacturer or packer (or if the food is imported, the name and business of the importer) of any food for sale.

Safe storage of seafood

The Food Standards Code Standard 3.2.2 Clause 6 outlines the requirements for storing food safely.

These requirements are to protect food from contamination and store the food under temperature control.

The following practices will help you to demonstrate compliance with this standard for the storage of seafood, other than live seafood:

  • Raw and ready-to-eat food (including oysters) should be stored separately to ensure no contact between raw and cooked product. It is best practice to store raw food below ready-to-eat food to minimise the risk of cross contamination through dripping blood or juices.
  • Product in storage should be covered to help minimise the risks of cross contamination.
  • Seafood needs to be stored at temperatures equal to or below 5°C. This can be achieved through active refrigeration such as a fridge or coolroom and with the assistance of ice.
  • Frozen seafood needs to remain ‘hard frozen’ during storage.
  • Use a clean and sanitised thermometer at least daily to verify that product temperatures are equal to or below 5°C.
  • Do not overload coolrooms or fridges, allow for sufficient air flow around the food to cool it down.
  • To assist the cooling process it may be necessary to remove food from foam boxes when stored in the coolroom or fridge.
  • Ensure that food and food contact surfaces do not come into contact with the floor of the coolroom - eg. store food above floor on shelving.
  • Ensure waste products are stored in clearly labelled bins or tubs and are stored away from edible products.

Wet storage of shellfish

Wet storage refers to the re-immersion of shellfish to store, remove sand or improve condition. The wet storage of shellfish poses unique and significant food safety risks due to their mode of feeding by indiscriminate filtration.

To ensure the safe wet storage of shellfish, wholesalers should refer to the Food Safety Program for Wet Storage of Shellfish; retailers should refer to the Food Safety Guidelines for the Wet Storage of Shellfish at Retail (also available in Chinese simplified and Chinese traditional on our translations page.

The wet storage of shellfish poses unique and significant food safety and biosecurity risks, and these must be considered when installing and implementing wet storage processes. For more, read Food safety and biosecurity guidelines for wet storage of shellfish at wholesale.

Seafood processing

Food Standards Code Standard 3.2.2 Clause 7 outlines the requirements for handling and processing food safely.

Processing includes steps such as thawing, filleting, gilling and gutting, cooking and marinading.

The following practices will help you to demonstrate compliance with this standard:

  • it is best practice to process ready-to-eat product in a designated area separate from where raw product is handled to reduce the risk of cross contamination. Designated knives, chopping boards and tongs are advisable for the handling of ready-to-eat product
  • ensure all equipment such as benches, knives, chopping boards, display trays etc are cleaned and sanitised prior to use, particularly if processing ready-to-eat product
  • if thawing frozen product, ensure that the time the product is out of refrigeration is minimised. It is best practice to thaw frozen ready-to-eat products, such as smoked salmon and prawns in the coolroom
  • minimise the time that seafood is kept out of refrigeration whilst being processed. Only bring out of the coolroom enough product that can be processed within 2 hours
  • ensure chemicals, garbage bins etc are kept away from seafood being processed
  • when cooking seafood, ensure that the product is thoroughly cooked. The flesh should be white and set. A clean and sanitised thermometer can be used to confirm that the temperature in the centre of the product has reached 65°C
  • when cooling cooked ready-to-eat product the food needs to be cooled quickly. The food must be cooled from its cooking temperature to below 21°C within 2 hrs and from 21°C to equal to or below 5°C within a further 4 hrs.

Labelling

Labelling requirements vary depending on the nature of the food and whether the food is packaged or unpackaged.

You will need to demonstrate the following when labelling product in your premises:

  • all unpackaged seafood for retail sale on your premises, including both fresh and processed seafood, must have a label indicating the country or countries from where the seafood was harvested, processed or manufactured (Country of Origin Labelling). For example, Vietnamese Basa must be labelled ‘Product of Vietnam’. Country of origin labelling is administered under Australian Consumer Law - for details visit the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission website
  • product harvested, processed or manufactured in Australia is also subject to Country of Origin labelling requirements
  • oysters (since classification) must be labelled with the name of the harvest area. It is also recommended that labelling include the estuary name
  • the label must be in English, be clearly visible to customers and the lettering on the label must be a minimum of 9mm in height. If the seafood is in an ‘assisted service’ refrigerated display cabinet ie an enclosed or partially enclosed cabinet that requires a person to serve the food to the purchaser - the lettering must be a minimum of 5mm in height
  • if the seafood contains more than one ingredient indicate that the seafood is a mix of local and/or imported ingredients*
  • if the seafood is mixed with other ingredients - eg if it is crumbed, pickled or marinated - indicate if the seafood is a mix of local and/or imported ingredients*.

* Please note that the order of local/imported ingredients on your label depends on which of these comprises the major part. For example, if there is more imported product, then the sign should say that this is a mix of imported and local ingredients.

When describing the type of seafood for sale it is recommended you use the names in the Australian Fish Names Standard.

Unpackaged seafood labelling

Under the Food Standards Code any unpackaged seafood displayed for retail sale must include a label indicating the country where the seafood was harvested, processed or manufactured. This applies to:

  •  fresh seafood, either by itself or mixed with other ingredients
  •  fish that has undergone a process such as cooking, drying, salting, smoking – either with or without other added ingredients.

Exemptions

Restaurants, cafes and take-away shops are exempt from the country of origin requirements where the food is only sold for immediate consumption.

Fish shops that sell both cooked and fresh seafood to be taken home and cooked further are required to label the seafood with the country of origin.

Requirements

Seafood displayed for retail sale is required to:

  • identify the country or countries of origin of the food, including Australia, or
  • where the seafood includes other ingredients, indicate that the seafood is a mix of local and/or imported ingredients.

In addition, the writing on the label is required to be in English and have at least 9mm high lettering.

Examples

  • NSW caught swordfish must be labelled with 'Product of Australia'
  • Vietnamese basa must be labelled 'Product of Vietnam'
  • Malaysian prawns marinated in imported olive oil and local garlic – 'Made from imported and local ingredients'
  • Indonesian tuna fully processed in New Zealand where cost of processing is over 50% of the total cost – "Made in New Zealand from imported tuna” or “Made in New Zealand from Indonesian tuna"
  • Imported fish fillets, crumbed, par-cooked, frozen and packaging in Australia – “Made in Australia” or "Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients".

Seafood labelling in hospitality settings

In November 2023 the Australian Government announced it would introduce mandatory Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) for seafood in hospitality settings, such as restaurants and cafes.  

For more information visit the Department of Industry, Science and Resources website.

 

Naming of seafood

Under the Food Act 2003, it is an offence to describe food incorrectly. This includes calling one type of seafood another, more commonly known as seafood substitution.

What names to use for seafood

It is recommended that you use the names in the Australian Fish Names Standard. This list, which includes names for fish, crustaceans and shellfish, was developed in consultation with industry and government and is maintained by Seafood Services Australia.

You can obtain a copy of the seafood names list by downloading it from the Seafood Standards website www.seafoodstandards.com.au

Further information regarding fish labelling can be found on the Food Standards Australia New Zealand website.

Penalties for non-compliance

Incorrect country of origin labelling can result in fines ranging from $440 to $880 for each incorrect label.

Repeated incorrect naming can also result in penalties of $55,000 for individuals and $275,000 for corporations.

Premises construction

Standard 3.2.3 of the Code outlines how your premises must be constructed and maintained. It details requirements for floors, walls, ceilings, fixtures, fittings, equipment and handwash facilities.

To meet this standard you will need to demonstrate the following:

  • the layout of the premises adequately separates food handling areas and equipment from possible sources of contamination eg wash up areas, garbage storage areas, chemical storage
  • the design and layout of the premises allows for easy cleaning ie minimising cracks and crevices and areas in which dirt and debris can accumulate
  • the construction of the premises excludes dirt, dust and other contaminants and does not harbour or permit the entry of pests
  • materials used in the construction of food premises allow for easy cleaning and if necessary sanitising.
  • materials used are smooth and impervious to moisture eg stainless steel, tiles. Timber items are not permitted as they are not impervious to moisture and may not allow for easy cleaning and sanitising
  • fixtures, fittings and equipment are able to be easily and effectively cleaned and food contact surfaces are able to be sanitised if necessary
  • separate hand wash facilities are located within areas where food handlers work and adjacent to any toilets
  • hand wash facilities are permanent fixtures and connected to a supply of warm running potable water and provided with a supply of paper towel and soap.

Legislation & standards

Seafood retailers need to practice safe food handling and preparation to meet food safety requirements.

This includes:

Resources

The Food Authority has prepared guidelines to assist seafood retail businesses address food safety issues and labelling requirements encountered by seafood retailers.

It also addresses other requirements such as notification, product substitution, disposal, temporary events and charity fish auctions.

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