Starting a food business in WA

Supermarket
It is important that anyone thinking about starting a food business in WA understands food laws before getting started.

The following information will help you to understand WA food laws that you need to comply with when getting started in the food industry.

From starting a:

  • retail outlet such as a restaurant or cafe
  • manufacturing, importing or exporting food
  • serving food to vulnerable people such as children in a childcare facility or
  • running a food business from home 

it is important that you understand the mandatory food safety requirements before getting started.

Food laws - legislation and standards

The purpose of food legislation and standards is to make sure that food for sale is safe and suitable to eat so that people don’t get sick.

It is important that you understand and comply with WA food legislation before operating your business.

WA food legislation

WA food legislation includes the:

Safe Food Australia Guideline - A guide to the Food Safety Standards

Food businesses are encouraged to print a copy of Safe Food Australia - A Guide to the Food Safety Standards (external site) produced by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) to support your understanding of the Food Standards Code and food safety issues. 

It is also recommended that anyone starting a food business contacts the Small Business Development Corporation (external website) for free business advice before getting started.

Roles and responsibilities in food safety

The following organisations play a role in food safety in WA and Australia

National State government Local government
Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (external site) Department of Health, Environmental Health Directorate WA local governments, Environmental Health Services
  • Develops the Food Standards Code that applies all Australian and New Zealand food businesses
  • Manages WA food legislation
  • Contributes to the National food safety agenda
  • Guides local governments to implement food legislation within their local district
  • Enforces food legislation for specific WA food industries
  • Administers food legislation and the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code for most food businesses within their local district
  • Register most food businesses intending to operate in their local district
  • Inspect food businesses for compliance with food laws.
Register a food business

Most food business will need to be registered with the relevant local government enforcement agency where the business is to be located.

Alternatively, a small number of businesses may need to register with the Department of Health before starting.

The organisation you register with depends on where you operate, and what type of business you are operating.

Learn more about who you need to register your food business with.

Fees and charges

Local government fees and charges

Local governments may charge a:

  1. one-off registration or notification fee
  2. annual or other fee (to cover annual inspections costs)

It is important you contact the local government Environmental Health Services (external site) where your business is located to discuss any fees they may charge. Each local government may charge slightly different fees.

Department of Health fees and charges

Food businesses that must register with the Department of Health includes food businesses located at:

Registration fees charged by the Department of Health are prescribed in the Food Regulations 2009.

Item Provision of Food Act 2008 Prescribed fee
Notification fee 107(3) $75
Registration of a food business fee 110(3)(c) $228
Design and fit out requirements

The construction and layout of a food business (including food vans and residential homes) are important to food safety. Suitably detailed plans and specifications may be requested as part of the registration process.

Food premises must comply with Standard 3.2.3  – Food premises and equipment; Australian New Zealand Food Standards Code (external site).

Guidance on meeting the requirements of this standard can be found in the Safe Food Australia – a guide to food safety standards (external site)

Key matters to consider include:

  • Hand washing facilities
  • Floor, walls and ceilings
  • Fixtures, fittings and equipment
  • Ventilation
  • Lighting
  • Toilet facilities for staff
  • Water supply
  • Sewage and waste disposal
  • Food transport vehicles

You are encouraged to discuss design and fit out requirements of your food business in the very early stages of planning your business with the relevant local government Environmental Health Services (external site).

Training - skills and knowledge of staff

It’s important that anyone handling food or surfaces that come into contact with food (known as a food handler) and their supervisors have the skills and knowledge to handle food properly so that it’s safe and suitable to eat.

Refer to food handlers and food safety to learn more about what you need to do to ensure staff and supervisors have the appropriate skills and knowledge handle food safely. 

Food labelling and allergens

Food allergens

When someone has a food allergy, eating the smallest amount of food can be life-threatening. So, if you serve food to customers who have informed you that they have a food allergy you need ensure you provide them with accurate information so they can make an informed choice about level of risk.

Attending to a customer’s food allergy request is legally required under the Food Act 2008. It can help build customer loyalty and be good for business. Consumers have a legal right to receive, on request, written or verbal information on allergen content when buying takeaway foods or eating out.

It is important that a food business understands the requirements on food allergens.

Refer to food allergens for more information.

Food labelling

Food may not be safe to eat if it is not labelled in the correct way, or has ingredients not allowed in food sold in Australia and New Zealand.

Having the correct label on food sold in Australia and New Zealand means food can be recalled if there are risks to consumers who eat it. For example, if there is an allergen in the food that is not listed on the label, to warn consumers it is in the food.

It is important that any businesses that plans to manufacture and sell food understands the requirements for food labelling.

Refer to food labelling for more information. 

Inspections

Each local government employs authorised officers (also known as Environmental Health Officers) who have the regulatory power to:

  • inspect a food business to make sure the business and staff are operating in accordance with food laws
  • investigate food safety complaints someone may make about a business
  • investigate a foodborne disease outbreak or food safety incident that a business may be linked to
  • take samples for analysis, for example food samples or environmental swabs

You don’t need to fear these inspections and you are encouraged to build a good relationship with the authorised officer, who wants to make sure food for sale to the community is safe and suitable.

Enforcement penalties and prosecution

There is a range of compliance and enforcement tools along with food offences detailed in the Food Act 2008, which allows an authorised officer (with support from the local government) to initiate enforcement action against any food business that does not comply with a requirement of the legislation.

A number of compliance and enforcement tools may be used to promote compliance with the legislation, including:

  • improvement notice (written warning directing a business to do something)
  • infringement notice (on the spot fine up to $500 for an individual or $1000 for a corporation)
  • prohibition order (order preventing you from doing something
  • seizure powers (power to take any item considered a risk)
  • legal action through the courts (maximum penalty up to $100,000 for an individual and $500,000 for a corporation)
  • publication of names of offenders (name and shame list of prosecutions which are published online)

The enforcement action to be taken will depend on the risk to public health and the consideration of previous compliance issues that may be associated with a particular food business.

Professional support

It is your responsibility to ensure that your food business complies with food legislation.

Your local government may be able to offer general guidance on the legislative requirements; however, for specific advice on how the legislation applies to your food business and how to comply you may wish to seek legal advice or employ a food safety or food labelling consultant.

Consultants may help with:

  • identifying food safety hazards relevant to your business and advising on how to control them
  • advising on compliance of your food premises and food handling practices with the food safety standards
  • preparing food safety management plans, food recall plans or other documentation
  • labelling development or compliance reviews

The Department of Health cannot recommend a particular food consultant. To find a consultant check with food industry associations, ask for recommendations from your industry associates or search on the internet.

Tips

When looking for a consultant it is important to find one that offers the services and has experience relevant to your food business needs. Some tips for finding an appropriate consultant include:

  • ask for their qualifications and most relevant experience
  • check their reputation online, and ask for referees from customers you can contact who had the same work done
  • compare several consultants and quotes
  • start with a small piece of work as a trial run

More information

  • For information about starting a food business contact the relevant local government environmental and public health services where the proposed food business is to be located. Refer to the online local government directory (external site) for contact details.
  • For food businesses in Kings Park, Rottnest Island, or locations not within a local government district, contact the Environmental Health Directorate by emailing foodsafety@health.wa.gov.au
Last reviewed: 02-11-2020
Produced by

Environmental Health Directorate