Legal development

Would you like that with a side of gastro FSANZ proposes new standards and practices

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    What you need to know

    • Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is proposing new standards and protocols in the Food Standards Code for companies in the food service and retail sector in order to bolster prevention of foodborne illnesses.
    • In around 2010, foodborne illnesses caused 4.1 million cases of gastroenteritis, 5,140 cases toxoplasmosis (non-gastrointestinal disease), 35,840 cases of sequelae (conditions that arise following illness, such as arthritis), 31,920 hospitalisations and 82 deaths.
    • Around two thirds of all foodborne illnesses in Australia are linked to food service and related retail service, including restaurants, takeaway, commercial catering, cruises and airlines, fast food franchises, delis and more (OzFoodNet data 2004 to 2015 ).

    What you need to do

    • Regularly check FSANZ and ACCC product recall reports online and in the news.
    • Food manufacturers and suppliers need to have recall plans that can be actioned quickly.
    • Businesses serving foods including those in the health and childcare sectors need to action robust food management systems, stay up to date on the Code and source from reputable suppliers.
    • Consumers need to carefully choose what food they buy, where they eat and order produce from, and to practice safe eating and food preparation habits both at home and in social settings.

    Consumers' concerns

    The recent Kinder chocolate salmonella recall left Easter shoppers frazzled due to fears of harming their loved ones. This is one of many recent instances that illustrates why FSANZ was asked to review the food safety risk management tools in the food service and retail sector as a part of a broader review of the Food Standards Code.

    A biannual survey held by the Centre for Global Food and Resources at the University of Adelaide (which you can access here - latest results from June 2020) showed that the top three food issues consumers identified were foodborne illnesses, imported food and pesticide use. The survey also indicated that only 10% of survey respondents had changed their behaviour due to a food safety issue, rating their confidence in Australia's food supply safety a 5.5 out of 7.

    Even though these results show consumer confidence in Australia's food supply, increasing numbers of people are growing more careful about product recalls and sources of their produce. Growth of the world population and changing consumer habits, such as increased travel with the lowering of isolation rules, has raised the number of people buying food prepared in public spaces, making the risk of foodborne illness even greater.

    FSANZ's proposals

    Submissions for change

    In early 2022, FSANZ sought the public's opinion on the potential impact of more regulatory measures on businesses and any gaps between the current and proposed new practices. Submissions presented strong support for the changes. However there was an overall consensus that the skills and knowledge of food handlers are inadequate and lacking. As such, the submissions showed favour for mandatory, nationally recognised entry level food handler training for new food handlers before they commence employment.

    New practices that FSANZ proposes to implement that were generally supported by respondents include:

    • up-to-date food handling and supervisor training;
    • training that must take into account literacy, language and numeracy levels of diverse staff; and
    • implementation of a tiered, activity-based, risk-management approach that utilises simple, flexible and effective templates.

    The proposed standard - Standard 3.2.2A

    FSANZ is also proposing a new standard in Part 3 of the Food Standards Code; Standard 3.2.2A – Food Safety Management Tools (see the draft proposal here). This would apply to businesses that fall under one of two categories that handle unpackaged and potentially hazardous food, including:

    • supermarkets, delis, and any other businesses that supply ready-to-eat food;
    • any business with table service and takeaway, including restaurants, cafes, pubs and hotels; and
    • hospitals, childcare centres and aged care facilities.

    This proposed standard requires training to ensure that all food handlers have the appropriate knowledge for high-risk food safety including safe food handling, food contamination, proper cleaning and sanitising practices and personal hygiene.

    It would also require the appointment of a certified food safety supervisor who has food safety skills and knowledge, is given management authority and is reasonably available to supervise food handlers while they are preparing food.

    Some businesses would also need to maintain records of their food preparation as evidence of their food safety management tools in place when inspected or audited by authorised officers.

    Steps you can take to be food safe

    What should you do as a consumer?

    It is important to keep up to date with the latest product recalls on the FSANZ and ACCC websites and the latest updates in food regulation online and in the news.

    The World Health Organisation's safe food manual, Five keys to safer food, also lays out some practical steps as to how to handle food safely, including:

    • keeping clean (and how to do so);
    • separating raw and cooked food;
    • cooking food thoroughly;
    • keeping food at safe temperatures; and
    • using safe water and raw materials

    You can access this resource at this link: Five keys to safer food manual (

    What does this mean for your food business?

    As well as complying with FSANZ's current standards for labelling and food preparation, food businesses need to ensure that they are:

    • using reputable suppliers;
    • providing clear information to customers about their food supply chain; and
    • keeping in the loop with food safety news and ensuring that all staff are aware of changes in health and safety rules.

    Authors: Kellech Smith, Partner and Leah Alysandratos, Paralegal.