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Maintaining food safety and proper hygiene is a crucial part of running a restaurant. If you fail to uphold a high standard of food safety, not only will you lose customers, you will likely face legal fines as well. You and your team are responsible for ensuring that your restaurant meets its legal requirements for food safety. This means implementing safe food procedures across your restaurant at all points of the process, from kitchen to table. New Zealand has a comprehensive national food control scheme, and you need to ensure that your business complies with your legal requirements. This article will go through a brief summary of food safety laws in New Zealand and outline who is responsible for food safety at your restaurant.

Food Safety Law

Food law in New Zealand operates on a sliding scale. The more risk involved with food at your business, the more you need to ensure that food is safe in line with NZ’s regulatory programme.

For example, your restaurant will deal with more food risk than a food delivery business because you are responsible for its preparation. Therefore, you will need more extensive requirements for how you handle that food.

The exact nature of your legal requirements will depend on your food control plan. You may use a government-issued template plan or one tailored for your needs. Your local council or the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) will monitor this process. When you want your restaurant verified for compliance with the relevant program, you will need to have a verification officer come to inspect your business.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), which operates through MPI, regulates specific food safety standards. The particulars of what you need to follow will depend on the kind of food you serve at your restaurant. 

If you fail to meet your food safety obligations, you could face severe legal penalties. For companies, this could include fines up to $500,000. For individuals, this could include up to $100,000 in fines and up to five years imprisonment.

Who Is Responsible for Food Safety at My Restaurant?

NZ law implies a duty on every person who trades in food to ensure that it is both safe and suitable to eat. In practice, this means that the food you sell must not cause hazardous health effects, such as food poisoning. You also must not mislead your customers about your food with its packaging or labelling. 

There is a responsibility across your entire team to uphold food safety standards at your restaurant. However, as a business owner or manager, you are likely the one who will face any legal consequences due to food mishandling. Therefore, you need to create a culture promoting food safety from the top and ensure that everyone works to maintain a high standard of safety. You need to ensure that you train your staff adequately to meet this responsibility.

You should train staff:

  • before they start working at your restaurant; and
  • when you change or introduce a procedure.

Furthermore, your food control plan will likely specify that you have to appoint someone in charge of ensuring plan compliance at your business. They will be responsible for meeting staff training requirements as well. You will need to provide evidence of this training before your restaurant can be certified, including:

  • who was trained, and when;
  • what aspects of your food control plan you covered; and
  • signatures from both the trainer and trainee.

Various regulatory bodies provide food certificate and safety courses, so be sure to find one that aligns with your restaurant’s needs.

Maintaining Food Safety At Your Restaurant

You need to ensure that your staff are trained and know how to meet your food control plan rules, including meeting requirements regarding:

  • handwashing;
  • wearing clean clothing;
  • reporting illness;
  • dealing with unsafe or hazardous foods, such as raw meat;
  • cleaning and sanitising adequately;
  • keeping foods separate in food preparation, particularly when managing allergens such as gluten or peanuts;
  • what to do if there is a problem; and
  • other safety procedures specific to your restaurant.

Tip: You should keep food stored in a fridge below 5 degrees celsius, and you should store hot food above 60 degrees celsius.

Your restaurant should have adequate cleaning facilities and enough space for safe food preparation. Your business premises must be clean and well maintained. This includes:

  • decent lighting and ventilation;
  • accessible handwashing facilities;
  • sufficient sewage and garbage disposal; and
  • sanitised walls, floors, and ceilings.

Key Takeaways

NZ law says you must make sure food is safe and suitable for consumers. As a restaurant operator, you will likely be the one that faces legal consequences if there is a food safety issue at your business. Therefore, you need to train your staff in food safety, and you must implement appropriate food safety schemes across your business. If you would like more information or help with food safety at your restaurant, contact LegalVision’s regulatory and compliance lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

What is a food control plan?

A food control plan is your system for how you maintain safe food practices and quality at your business. The nature of your plan will depend on the level of food risk at your business.

How can I get my food business verified?

If you operate in one location, you can apply for a verification inspection at your local council. If you operate in multiple locations, then you may have to go through the MPI.

Who manages food safety at my restaurant?

Every member of your staff has a responsibility to ensure that they are handling food safely and in line with your legal requirements. However, you should make sure someone has the specific job of ensuring compliance with your relevant food control plan.

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