Step by step, Australia starts a home-based food business.

Australia Cottage Food Laws, Regulations, and Facts

It is illegal to sell food made in your home kitchen in Australia unless approved and inspected by the local Council. However, this is not impossible. You must meet the same food safety requirements for home-based food businesses like any other, regardless of how large your business is or how frequently you sell food.

Definitions:

  • A home-based food business is where you use your home or someone else’s house to prepare food for sale. This includes catering to events, B&Bs, farm stays, and online food sales.
  • A “Food business” refers to any activity or business that involves handling any food or selling food in Australia.

How to start a home-based food company

  • This process isn’t officially defined in Australia, so we have gathered it from all the available government sources and our practical experience. Please let us know if you find anything else!

Step 1: Determine whether your food product can be sold.

  • Two myths about
    1. I can create my recipe and package it safely.
    2. I can make any food that I see in the stores at home.
  • Both are false. Food companies often conduct numerous lab tests and trials to determine the product’s properties, such as bacterial counts, pH, and water content. Food companies conduct many lab tests to ensure that every recipe, packaging, and process produces a shelf-stable product that is safe to eat for months to come. This type of testing is not possible at home. It is important to stick to tested recipes, equipment, and procedures. Universities and government labs have tested all recipes.
  • Equipment used by commercial food companies can often withstand pressures and temperatures that are impossible with home equipment. They also have packaging equipment that ensures the product is stable. Producing safe food products requires:
    1. This recipe has been tested in the lab.
    2. The right processing equipment (water bath, pressure, etc.)
    3. Follow the steps in a safe and clean environment.
  • Bottled pumpkin butter and most bottled egg/milk products are two examples of foods that can’t be safely packaged and made at home. Additional controls and procedures must be implemented to ensure that potentially hazardous food, such as those that require specific temperatures, pH, or water content is safe to consume.

Step 2: Verify that your kitchen meets the design criteria.

  • You should design and equip your premises to safely handle food and prevent contamination.
  • You should have:
    • A layout that allows people to work in a safe environment without the risk of food contamination (e.g., to keep cooked and raw foods separated and dispose of food waste).
    • Hand wash basin/s with warm water, soap, and single-use towels if you intend to use the sink for other purposes (e.g. You will need to get written approval from your Council before you can wash dishes or use a laundry sink.
    • Fridges are large and strong enough to keep food cold at 5oC (or lower) (and freeze food hard).
    • Enough storage space to store food and packaging
    • Floors, walls and benches that are easy to clean
    • A supply of water that is safe for drinking and good light and ventilation
    • A system that safely stores and disposes of waste.
  • Check with your local Council for advice and guidance to ensure you are properly set up.

Step 3: Check the rules of your territory or state

  • Each territory and state has its requirements and guidelines. You should ensure you check the ones that apply to your region.
    • NSW Food Authority Home-based Food Businesses – All domestic kitchens that prepare food for sale directly to the consumer will be regulated by local councils starting 1 July 2018. Domestic kitchens that sell food only to restaurants or other businesses like cafes and supermarkets will be regulated by the NSW Food Authority.
    • Victoria Health Department Starting a food business
    • Queensland Health Department Food Safety
    • ACT Health Starting a Food Business within the ACT
    • SA Health Starting A Food Business
    • WA Department Of Health Considering starting a food business?
    • NT Department Of Health: Food Safety
    • Tasmania Department of Health Food Safety for Businesses and Community Organisations

Step 4: Apply to your local Council for a Business License.

  • After you have dealt with the design, regulatory and food issues that may make it difficult or impossible to start a home-based business, you will need to apply for a business license. This is done at your local Council. Your Council should approve you if you don’t sell high-risk food items. Before changing the name, address or food activities of your business, you must notify your local Council.

Step 5: Training: Food safety knowledge, skills, and certification

  • Although it’s not difficult, you must be able to cook food in compliance with the law to make it sellable.
    • Everyone working with food in your company should know how to prepare, store, and package food safely.
    • You or someone working in your company will probably need formal training, e.g. A certified food safety supervisor. For more information on whether your company requires a Food Safety Supervisor, check with your local Council.

Top tips for food safety in home-based businesses

Prevent contamination

    • Food should be protected at all times during storage and transport.
    • Before handling food, thoroughly wash your hands and dry them. Use warm running water with soap to scrub your wrists, palms and backs. Dry hands with single-use towels.
    • do not handle food if you are ill
    • Keep raw foods separate from ready-to-eat food – e.g. Use different cutting boards and store raw foods below ready-to-eat food.
    • Protect food from pets, children, visitors, sick persons, waste, chemicals and pests

Sanitizing and cleaning

    • Keep the place free from food waste, grease, and rubbish.
    • Keep food contact surfaces such as benches, utensils, and containers clean.
    • Clean before you sanitize
    • Use bleach, a commercial food-safe sanitizer or a dishwasher with the longest heat cycle to clean.

Food traceability

    • Keep track of all your suppliers and ingredients and any businesses you have sold to.
    • If you are a food manufacturer or wholesale supplier, prepare a written recall plan. Follow it if there is a need.

Food safety – Processing

    • Potentially hazardous foods, such as those containing meat, eggs, and dairy, must be kept at 5oC or lower or 60oC or higher during transport, storage, display, or hot holding.
    • To reduce time in the fridge, prepare food quickly (e.g. Sandwiches.
    • Cook food at safe temperatures (e.g. 75oC for chicken and minced meat
    • Cool cooked food quickly and store it in the refrigerator (e.g., divide the food into smaller portions and store it in the fridge.
    • A food thermometer can be used to check the temperature.
    • Know the safety limits (e.g. Know the critical safety limits (e.g., acidity and water activity) of any processes you use

How to create a food label

  • Australia, New Zealand Food Standards Code, sets out the requirements for food labelling.
  • FSANZ, the national food standards body, provides information to assist consumers in reading a food label. It also explains the requirements for food labelling. You can find information on many topics.
    • Use by and Best Before Dates
    • allergens
    • Food additives include an alphabetical as well as a numerical list
    • fish labelling
    • GM food labelling
    • Nutrition, Health and Related Claims
    • Ingredients List and Percent Labelling
    • Labelling for religious or animal welfare reasons
    • Nutrition Information Panels
    • Truth in Labelling, Weights, Measures and Legibility
    • Warning and Advisory Statements
    • sugar labelling
    • Proposal for warning labels regarding pregnancy in alcoholic beverages

How to create a food label

  • Label buster was designed to assist businesses in determining their labelling needs.
  • Other components may be required for food labels, such as:
    • Nutrition Panel Builder – A free tool for creating a nutrition panel
    • Country origin food labelling
    • Australian trade measurements laws

 

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