By Roy Palmer
Published on 19 August, 2009
In Australia, while we have national laws for food standards, there is an anomaly in the system because the federal government does not police this. Each state (or territory) has its own regulations and while they all flow in a similar vein, the way governance and compliance is organized varies considerably from one state to the other.
I do like the way New South Wales (NSW) goes about its business on food safety compared to some others.
Recently, there was a report that one in 10 food retail and foodservice businesses in New South Wales failed food safety inspections conducted by local councils. The minister was straight on the front foot regarding his highlighting of the first report of the state’s 152 councils which showed that there was a “knowledge gap” in some businesses when it comes to food safety and hygiene requirements.
“The first report of the State’s 152 councils has shown that 10 percent of all food businesses failed food safety inspections,” he said. “This is not good enough — more work needs to be done by food premises to make sure they comply with critical food handling practices. More than 23,000 inspections were carried out by local council food inspectors and this snapshot reveals there is clearly a knowledge gap in some businesses of what is required. Food safety must be the No. 1 priority of all food businesses and consumers should not have to take a risk when dining out.”
The NSW government introduced new laws last year where councils are obliged to report half-yearly to the NSW Food Authority on their food regulatory activities, such as inspections, complaints investigated and enforcement action. It also launched the new name-and-shame Web site where consumers can see the foodservice businesses that have failed safety inspections, and they are bringing in next year a law that introduces mandatory food handler training. This will entail each food business having a designated food-safety supervisor responsible for safe-food handling.
The half-yearly report showed that from July last year 3,444 warning letters and 834 improvement notices were issued, 729 fines were issued, and there were 31 prosecutions.
Many other states are not as proactive and do not disclose figures and information, and I think that is a caveman mentality. In a country where you need a license to call bingo, I do not think it is onerous to ensure that any food business is meeting its obligations regarding handling issues.
What happens in your territory?