The NSW Food Authority has a partnership with the 128 local councils across NSW, who conduct regular inspections of retail food businesses in their local area.
Council environmental health officers (EHOs) are authorised officers under the Food Act 2003 and check that good food safety practices are in place such as temperature control, cleanliness, hand washing and labelling. This partnership is known as the Food Regulation Partnership.
What will be assessed during your inspection
The majority of councils in NSW inspect retail food premises using a standard checklist for compliance with the Food Standards Code called the Food Premises Assessment Report (FPAR).
The FPAR features a points system to determine a hygiene and food safety score.
Council officers will assess the following as part of the inspection:
- general items: that you appointed a trained Food Safety Supervisor (FSS), have an FSS certificate on the premises, and that food handlers have skills and knowledge to handle food safely
- food handling controls: storage, display and transport, processing, the risk of cross-contamination
- cleaning and sanitising, hand washing and proximity of facilities
- food temperature control
- pest control
- premises design and construction: issues such as water supply, disposal, adequate and safe garbage facilities and lighting
- food labelling: accurate and sufficient.
Preparing for your regular inspection
There are a number of things you can do to prepare for your regular council inspection to get the best possible result:
- Make sure your premises has an up-to-date notification record at your local council
- Make sure your premises has a current, designated Food Safety Supervisor (FSS) and that they have an FSS certificate for the required training units
- Look at your last hygiene and food safety inspection report to check that you’ve taken all of the actions needed to meet the legal requirements. If you can’t find your last report, contact your local council and they will be able to give you a copy
- Continue making regular, routine checks to ensure hygiene standards are being maintained and staff are following the rules
- Safe processes are as important as physical conditions. Staff should be able to answer questions on food safety related to the food handling work they do
- Promptly arrange for any repairs and conduct regular maintenance of the premises and equipment
- Peform a self check by going through the Food Premises Assessment Report (FPAR) yourself.
Getting a better inspection result
Make sure you have these covered. The 5 most common issues identified by council inspection staff are where food businesses fail to:
1. clean the food premises and equipment: under, behind, inside equipment and appliances; grease traps; floors; storage areas
2. have hand washing facilities that are readily accessible, dedicated to hand washing and have a supply of warm, running potable water, soap and single-use paper towels
3. control pest issues such as cockroaches and mice so there is no evidence of infestation; cover waste containers, protect areas from pests with flyscreens etc
4. keep high risk food at the correct temperatures (hot enough or cold enough) during both display and storage; have a food temperature measuring device (how do you know food is at a safe temperature?)
5. cover food during storage and protect it from contamination.
Scores on Doors
Scores on Doors is the NSW hygiene and food safety scoring program that displays the results of food premises regular inspections. It makes public how well local restaurants, takeaway shops, bakeries, pub bistros and cafes are complying with NSW hygiene and food safety requirements.
If your council participates in the Scores on Doors program they will tally your food safety and hygiene rating to either 3, 4 or 5 stars and you will be able to display your food safety record for your customers.
If you disagree with your inspection results
If you disagree with your inspection results, or have concerns about how your inspection was conducted, contact your council in the first instance using the council’s complaint handling process.
Click here to find what council area you are in.
If you are dissatisfied with council’s response, you may be able to seek further advice from other agencies.
The NSW Ombudsman can look at whether the council:
- failed to comply with proper procedures or the law
- failed to notify affected people before decisions were made
- provided unreasonable, discriminatory or inconsistent treatment
- failed to reply to correspondence.
The NSW Ombudsman cannot order your council to change a decision. It can make suggestions or recommendations, which councils are free to adopt or decline.
You can phone the NSW Ombudsman on 1800 451 524, or make a complaint to it here.
Office of the NSW Small Business Commissioner
The Office of the NSW Small Business Commissioner’s role is to help you find a solution to your problem, usually through negotiating, providing information or mediating.
It can provide you with advice, and talk to your council about how best to resolve the dispute.
Where problems are too complex to be dealt with over the phone, it can arrange a face-to-face mediation session between you and your council.
NSW Office of Local Government
While the NSW Office of Local Government has only limited powers to intervene in the decision making of councils, businesses can seek assistance from it. However, it will not assist with legal questions, including court appeal or review rights.
The NSW Office of Local Government can be contacted on (02) 4428 4100 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.