Food Act 2014
Guidance for Food Business Operation under COVID-19 Alert Level 2
New Zealand Food Safety has provided the following information for food businesses operating under COVID Alert Level 2:
The Food Act 2014
The Food Act 2014 takes a common-sense approach to food safety.
Everyone working in the food industry has a responsibility to make sure that the food we buy is safe and suitable to eat. The Food Act 2014 takes a new approach to managing food safety.
The new Act promotes food safety by focusing on the processes of food production, not the premises where food is made. For example, someone who makes and sells food from a food truck must follow the same rules as someone who makes and sells food at a restaurant.
The Act brings in new food safety measures:
- Food control plans (FCPs) – written plans for managing food safety on a day-to-day basis. These are used by higher risk businesses
- National programmes – a set of food safety rules for medium and low risk businesses. If you're under a national programme, you don't need a written plan (or develop written procedures), but must register, meet food safety standards, keep some records, and get checked.
Thinking of starting a food business?
New Zealand Food Safety has a comprehensive guidance document, The notebook, to find out what food rules apply to a new business, how to put together a food control plan or national programme, find a verifier, and get registered. The notebook – for businesses making and selling food [PDF, 916 KB]
Help available to find out where you fit
New Zealand Food Safety has developed a tool – 'My food rules' – to help you work out the food safety rules that apply to your business or food activity. By answering a series of questions, you can find out if you need to register your business, who with (and under which legislation), and how to do it.
When you need to register under the Food Act
Anyone starting a new business must register under the Food Act 2014 before they start selling food.
Application form for registration.
A Scope of Operations document must also be supplied with your application to explain what processes you will be doing and/or using in your business.
Registers and lists shows Food Act recognised agencies and persons, food control plans and businesses subject to a national programme, registered food importers, and food safety verifiers.
Food safety toolkit
Guidance and resources to help food businesses understand and meet their obligations under the Food Act 2014. Resources include links to videos, posters, and templates.
Food safety is good for business
If you own or manage a food business, you know your customers expect the food you make to be safe and suitable.
MPI launched the food safety toolkit in 19 July 2018. It's an interactive package of tools to help food businesses using the Simply Safe & Suitable (SSS) Template Food Control Plan (FCP) meet the rules. The toolkit focuses on some of the most important food safety messages.
Food Control Plans
A food control plan (FCP) sets out what steps a business making or selling higher-risk foods needs to take to make safe food. You use it to identify risks, and to show how they're being managed. It means customers will know your food is safe – and it can help you create a successful food business.
A template food control plan (FCP) is a pre-evaluated plan for managing food safety. If your business activities are covered by one of the available templates, you can use this rather than creating your own custom plan.
Working with a national programme is the way that lower-risk food businesses operate under the Food Act 2014. Find out how to set up and register your business under a national programme.
Lower and medium risk businesses follow a national programme. This means they don't need to use written food control plans, but must register the business, meet food safety standards, keep some records, and get checked.
There are 3 levels of national programmes, which are based on the food safety risk of the activities a business does:
- Level 1 – lower risk
- Level 2 – medium risk
- Level 3 – higher risk.
All national programmes require:
- record keeping to show that you're selling safe food
- registration of business details with your local council (or with MPI if you operate in more than one local area)
- one or more visits from a verifier recognised by MPI
- if you are involved in processing food, you must meet national programme processing requirements.
National Programme 1 will apply to businesses such as:
- transporters or distributors of food products
- horticultural food producers and horticultural packing operations (packhouses)
- retailers of manufacturer-packaged ice cream and iced confectionery.
National Programme 2 will apply to businesses such as:
- bread bakeries
- manufacturers of jams, chips and confectionery
- manufacturers of sauces and spreads.
National Programme 3 will apply to businesses such as:
- brewers and distillers
- food additive manufacturers
- fruit drink and flour manufacturers.
Exemptions from plans or programmes.
Under the Food Act 2014, some food businesses and community groups are not required to operate under a food control plan or a national programme.
Food activities that are low risk, either because they don't happen often or cater to only a small number of people, don't need to operate under a food control plan or a national programme. This applies to some fundraising and community group food activities, and some businesses.
However, even if you don't need a written plan or programme, you still have to comply with food safety laws and make sure your food is safe and suitable to eat.
You don't need a food control plan or programme if you are:
- selling food for fundraising less than 20 times a year. Fundraising activities include sausage sizzles, raffles and charity events
- sharing food with others at sports clubs, social clubs or marae where food is not the purpose of the event. For example, providing nibbles at a bowling club games night or serving food at a tangi.
Types of businesses that don't need a food control plan or programme include:
- home-based childcare providers who prepare food for children in their care
- small accommodation operators who provide food to less than 10 guests
- growers selling unprocessed, home-grown fruit and vegetables directly to consumers, such as at farm gates or farmers markets
- people who sell only pre-packaged foods that don't need refrigeration or freezing, like packets of biscuits or cans of food
- commercial fishing operators providing meals to their crew.
The Act also gives MPI the power to exempt a business – which would not otherwise be exempt – from operating under a food control plan or national programme. If you are not exempt, but you think you should be, you can apply to MPI for an exemption.
The types of activities that may be considered would be similar to those listed above, such as infrequent events or activities that may not be considered food for sale.
You will need to show that you understand how to manage food safety hazards and ensure that your food is safe to eat. You will also need to show that you have a valid and appropriate reason for why your business should be treated as a special case.
Some factors considered when assessing exemption applications include:
- Hazards associated with the food being produced and the processes used.
- Potential impact on consumers.
- Frequency and scale of the operation.
- Comparison against similar businesses that have undergone registration.
You are unlikely to be granted an exemption if you:
- produce or manufacture high-risk foods
- supply foods to high-risk consumers such as young children or hospitals
- are exporting your products.
If you think you fall into one or more of these categories but you still want to be exempt, contact MPI before applying, so they can discuss the best options available to you. Email email@example.com
Safe food should lower the cost to comply
Generally, food businesses that consistently provide safe and suitable food can achieve lower compliance costs.
Most food businesses will be checked periodically (by a verifier) to ensure they are operating safely.
Under the Food Act 2014, food safety officers from the Ministry for Primary Industries and local authorities have tools to protect consumers from:
- unsafe food
- businesses that fail to identify allergens in their products
- unethical food operators
- misleading or inaccurate labelling.
The Act allows for instant fines, giving officers have the power to quickly and effectively deal with minor offences.
Infringement tools for food safety officers
Businesses are encouraged to voluntarily meet the requirements of the Food Act 2014 – they need to provide safe and suitable food. However, if there are problems with a food business, a food safety officer may get involved. They can draw on a wide range of tools to address any problems, including:
- Infringement offences (instant fines) for minor offences.
- Improvement notices and notices of direction. These require business operators to improve food safety without costly court action.
- Powers for food safety officers to interrupt operations when necessary to assist in an investigation.
- Powers to close or restrict the use of a place if food safety or suitability is threatened.
- Compliance orders that can be issued by a District Court to compel business operators to take certain actions.
- Significant penalties for the most serious food safety offences.
Usually, minor issues can be dealt with by food safety officers providing suitable advice. If more serious issues are found a graduated response is taken. Officers may issue directions, infringement notices, or for particularly serious offences initiate a prosecution. More information about infringement offences (instant fines) is in the Food Regulations 2015.