Food Businesses

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Food Businesses

​​​​​​​​​​​​​Retail Food Industry and COVID-19

The NSW Food Authority has also updated their Food businesses and COVID-19 (Coronavirus) web page which contains information that may also assist you.

In order to keep up-to-date please continue to check the Australian Government website for the latest announcements about COVID-19.

Food Businesses

Thinking of setting up a new food business, taking over an existing business or just need some general information?

The answers to the most common questions received​ by Council can be found in the guidance below.

Service NSW can also help with the setup of a new café, restaurant or small bar business faster in Coffs Harbour with free access to their 'Easy to Do Business' program. 

You can view Councils fees and charges associated with food business compliance here.

You can also subscribe to the Environmental Health Newsletter to stay up to date with the latest industry news.

Starting a New Food Business


​If a food business has not previously operated from the premises, or the business is planned to be operated from a home, then it is likely you will need to obtain 'development consent' to operate a food business in this location.

This is a relatively easy process to undertake. For questions regarding the development application process visit Council's development applications page or contact Council's duty planner on 02 6648 4000.

When submitting your development application ensure you include a scale plan of the food business, including the kitchen and food storage areas. Ideally, plans should be professionally drawn and include details of fixtures and finishes. Plans for small scale activities may be hand drawn but must still include details of fixtures and finishes.

There is an Australian Standard for the construction of food business (AS/NZS 4674:2004-Design, construction and fit-out of a food premises), which will promote compliance with the Food Act 2003 (NSW). The Australian Standard is available from Standards Australia however access fees apply. If you are not licenced to access Standards Australia then the Food Premises, Design, Construction and Fit Out Guide document will help you determine minimum standards for fixtures and fittings for the site.

Once your application is received* it will be assessed by the relevant Council officers and may require a site visit to be undertaken. If Officers wish to undertake a site visit they will contact you to arrange a mutually convenient time. If the food business is in a residential property, the officers will only need to see the specific area of the property used in connection with the food business, such as food preparation and food storage areas.

Although Council officers can use discretion when applying the Australian Standard for home based food businesses, if you are intending to use a domestic kitchen for your food business the standard of the kitchen must be appropriate for the type of food manufacturing you are intending. For example production of low risk foods such as muffins and bread etc. will not require the same high standards as production of potentially hazardous foods such as soups, sandwiches, pies etc. Your application cannot be approved unless you can demonstrate that relevant food safety controls are possible within the domestic setting.

Prior to obtaining final approval (Occupation Certificate) you will need to meet the conditions applied to the development consent. The conditions will include:

  • Provide certification that the fit out meets the Food Act 2003 and the Australian Standard requirements.
  • Provide evidence that a nominated food safety supervisor has been appointed.
  • Notify the business to Council (or the NSW Food Authority as applicable).

The certification of the fit out must be undertaken by an appropriatly qualified professional. Council Environment Health Officers can provide this service subject to the appropriate fee being paid. To request this service please complete and submit a Health Enquiry Form​​. On receipt of the form an Officer will contact you and arrange a mutually convenient time to undertake the site visit. Please allow at least seven working days for this service.

Once your business begins to trade Council Officers will undertake a regulatory inspection within the financial year.

Please be aware that fixed food businesses in Coffs Harbour are rated against the Scores on Doors Scheme and scores are published via the Scores on the Doors Australia website.

*You may also use a private certifier to assist you in the develoment application process. The requirements and standards are the same, however the certifier will have the authority to sign off and issue an Occupation Certificate. Refer to Council's development application page for more detailed information.



​If the premises you are operating from has previously been used as a food business you will not need development consent. However, if you are intending to undertake major renovation to the site you may need development consent. For questions regarding the development application process visit Council's development applications page or contact Council's duty planner on 02 6648 4000.

Council Officers can undertake pre-purchase inspections of existing food businesses. The inspection will provide a report highlighting any physical issues, such as disrepair, pest access etc. that may result in non-compliance with Food Act requirements. This service does incur a fee. To request this service please complete and submit a Health Enquiry Form. On receipt of the form an officer will contact you and arrange a mutually convenient time to undertake the site visit. Please allow at least seven working days for this service.

Once the sale is complete, you must ensure that you have notified Council of the change of details prior to trading. Your business will then be added to Council's database and an inspection will occur within the financial year.

Please be aware that fixed food businesses in Coffs Harbour are rated against the Scores on Doors Scheme and scores are published via the Scores on the Doors Australia website.


​The transient nature of non-fixed food businesses present unique challenges, however the businesses are still expected to comply with the food hygiene law, just the same as a fixed food business.

The Food Safety Guidance for Non-fixed Food Businesses provide some advice and guidance on how non-fixed food businesses can meet the legal requirements. The following NSW Food Authority guidelines can also provide guidance and advice.

As a non-fixed food business trading at a market, event, private land or on public land but with a specified tender or licence* you need to notify Council of your business operations and update when any details change, i.e. you change the type of food you serve from low risk to high risk or the contact name or address for the business changes.

However, if you wish to trade on a public roadway (sometimes referred to as hawking) you will need a separate approval, which is issued under Section 68 of the Local Government Act 1993. The approval contains conditions such as 'you cannot remain stationary while trading for more than 15 minutes' and 'you cannot trade within 200m of a 'like'** fixed business when that business is trading'. Failure to comply with the approval conditions may result in the approval being withdrawn.

Non-fixed food businesses are subject to regulatory inspections the same as fixed businesses with relevant costs applied. For further details see Council's fees and charges.

*For information about Council controlled sites which are open to tender or licence for food businesses, please contact Council's property section on 02 6648 4000.

**A 'like' business is a business that is selling similar food types, for example a coffee van could not trade within 200m of a coffee shop.


​If you are a non-fixed food business based in Coffs Harbour but travel to another Local Government Area to trade, you should check the trading terms with the local Council. Some Council's operate under a home jurisdiction arrangement so they will accept notification and inspection reports from other Councils. Therefore if you have notified your business to Coffs Harbour City Council, you may not be required to pay an additional notification fee to trade in their area. You should always contact the local council to check their requirements before you start to trade in their area.

When you notify Coffs Harbour City Council of your business, you will receive a certificate confirming that your business has been added to our register. It is recommended that, when trading, you keep a copy of your notification certificate within your vehicle/stall etc. If you have received a routine food safety inspection you should also keep a copy of the inspection report with you, as Council inspectors may accept the report, saving you the expense of having multiple inspections in a financial year.


​Coffs Harbour City Council recognises the home jurisdiction agreement therefore if you can produce valid evidence of notification/registration with another local government authority you may not be subject to fees to trade in Coffs Harbour. Our EHOs will also generally not inspect your business if you can produce valid evidence that you have had a regulatory inspection within the current financial year. In such cases, officers will only inspect if a complaint about your business has been recieved or the officer becomes aware of food safety risks that are not being controlled.

If you wish to trade on a public roadway and have a Section 68 approval​ from another local government authority, Council will not require you to obtain an additional approval. However, Coffs Harbour City Council's Section 68 approval conditions will take precedence when trading within Coffs Harbour LGA.

Market and event organiser's in Coffs Harbour will ask you to produce evidence of notification/registration with a Local Government Authority and your Food Safety Supervisors certificate before they allow you to trade.


Council is partnering with Service NSW as part of the Easy to do Business program.  The program is designed to assist new start up Café, Restaurant and Small Bars business owners as well as existing business owners with working through the different licensing and approvals needed to establish and operate their businesses.

The Easy to do Business program is a free service that provides access to:

  • Business concierges – personalised support and step-by-step guides tailored specifically for your business.
  • How-to Guides – online information to help you understand government licensing, approvals and regulations.
  • My Business Navigator – an online tool that guides you through what you need to do.

Easy to do Business tackles the time, complexity and duplication issues that you can face when starting or growing a business in NSW. It cuts red tape and allows you to focus on your business rather than bureaucracy.

New start up business owners and existing owners who might want to modify their businesses are encouraged to make use of the service.  Please visit Service NSW to access the Business Navigator tool.


​All food businesses are required to comply with the requirements of food safety legislation, namely:

1. Food Act 2003

2. Australian/New Zealand Food Standards Code

This legislation sets out minimum requirements for structure, food handling practices and cleanliness of which you need to be aware of if you are running a food business. As a food business proprietor, it is your responsibility to identify the food safety risks relevant to your particular business and ensure that suitable controls are in place to manage those risks.

To identify and control food safety risks you should make sure you are appropriately trained and, where applicable, ensure Food Safety Supervisor training is implemented in the business.

The NSW Food Authority provides many ​factsheets and guidelines that will help you identify risks and appropriate controls.


​The Food Act 2003 places a responsibility on all food business proprietors to notify the responsible regulatory authority of their business undertaking.

In Coffs Harbour, Council is the responsible authority for the regulation of retail food businesses; that is those businesses that sell or market their product direct to the public.

Businesses that manufacture from their site (including home based businesses) or need a licence (such as butchers) are regulated by the NSW Food Authority. Such businesses may consult Council's Environmental Health Officers as part of their initial development consent, but all other food safety concerns would be the responsibility of the NSW Food Authority.

If you wish to notify Council that you are operating a retail food business in the Coffs Harbour Local Government Area please complete the Food Business Notification Form PRIOR to trading.

​If you have already notified Council of your business but some of the details have changed, the law requires that you notify Council of the changes. You can do this by submitting a food business notification form with the updated details as soon as is reasonably practicable.

Council will assess your notification details for inclusion in Council's database and your business will be assigned a risk category, relevant to the types of food you handle or prepare etc.

High Risk​Those serving unpackaged food that would need temperature control to keep the food safe to eat, such as burgers, curries, pies and cooked rice.
Medium Risk

​Those serving food that may contain harmful bacteria but wouldn't normally be expected to promote the growth of bacteria, such as fruits, vegetables and milk based confectionary.

​Low Risk​Those serving food that is unlikely to contain or support the growth of harmful bacteria such as grains, cereals, fizzy drinks, and sugar-based confectionary.

Legislation enables Council to recover the costs of regulating your food business by applying administration and inspection fees in accordance with Council's adopted fees and charges.

*Many charitable and 'not for profit' organisations are not required to notify Council of their food business dependant on the type of foods they sell. However, they must still follow all other safe food handling requirements. For more information see the charitable or 'not for profit' groups pages and the relevant NSW Food Authority factsheets.


​As part of Council's partnership agreement with the NSW Food Authority, food businesses are inspected as part of our risk based frequency framework, by authorised Council Environmental Health Officers. Inspections will predominantly be when the business is trading, as this gives officers a good indication of normal business practices.

Officers will be looking at key food safety issues including:

  • food handling controls; display and transport; processing; risk of cross-contamination
  • cleaning and sanitising
  • hand washing including proximity of facilities
  • food temperature control
  • pest control
  • premises design and construstion: water supply, disposal, adequate and safe garbage facilities, lighting
  • food labeling
  • other general items such as: have you appointed a trained Food Safety Supervisor (FSS); do you have a FSS certificate on the premises; and that food handlers have the skills and knowledge to handle food safety.


Officers will assess your compliance by observing practices, talking to food handlers and by physical inspection. Officers use a standardised Food Premises A​ssessment Report (FPAR) to record their findings.

The FPAR has been produced by the NSW Food Authority to promote a consistent risk based approach to regulatory inspections and follow up actions.

The FPAR is a demerit based system, where demerit points are applied for non-compliances. The demerit points are weighted towards the risk, therefore high risk issues (such as those highlighted in grey on the document), carry much higher demerit marks than low risk issues. Officers can only give the demerit amount specified against a particular requirement.

Businesses that recieve more than 15 demerits or any single '8' demerit (significant risk) for non-compliance, will be subject to further regulatory actions until a satisfactory level of compliance is achieved. Officers will leave a copy of the FPAR on site for your records.

Coffs Harbour City Council have adopted the Scores on Doors Scheme currently operating across a large portion of NSW. All eligible fixed food businesses in Coffs Harbour that have acquired Scores on Doors rating through their inspection are awarded a certificate. The FPAR inspection tool is used to calculate the Scores on Doors rating for businesses.

Scores are published via the Scores on the Doors Australia​ website and available for viewing by the public.

*Environmental Health Officers (EHO) are authorised to exercise powers detailed in Food Act 2003, Para 37 (NSW). As such, an EHO should always produce an identity card on arrival, confirming their authorisation to enter the premises and conduct inspection. Please be aware it is an offence to refuse an authorised officer access, however if you ever have doubt about the authority of the person to enter your food business you can call Council on 02 6648 4000 and confirm their identity.


​Coffs Harbour City Council has implemented a risk based inspection frequency framework. The framework is an evidence-based response to food risks, empowering high performance businesses to reduce their regulatory burden, but also allowing the targeting of resources to those that present a greater public health risk.

As part of a food business's routine regulatory health inspection, the business will be assessed against a risk matrix. The matrix allows an assessment of what you are doing (i.e. size and scope of the business) but also how well you are doing it, giving 'weighting' to the following factors:

  • Processing - Type of food handling practices undertaken, i.e. selling wrapped food only vs. preparation of high risk foods
  • Consumers at Risk - The size of the business and volume of food handling and recognition of vulnerable groups, i.e. small B&B vs large conference venues vs childcare centre or retirement home
  • Current Compliance - FPAR (Scores on Doors) rating at time of inspection
  • Confidence in Management - Compliance history, willingness to comply, proactive food safety controls
  • Process Risk - Specific high risk process being undertaken such as raw egg sauces, sous vide, dual use vacuum packing etc.

The weighting for each element is calculated and the final 'score' determines the next inspection. Inspection frequency will range from six monthly to two yearly.

As the food business operator you are in a position to influence the current compliance and our confidence in the management.


​The Food Act 2003 (NSW) requires certain food businesses in the NSW hospitality and retail food services sector to have at least one trained Food Safety Supervisor (FSS).

Please be aware that to be an FSS you must have gained specific units of competency under the National Vocational Education Training system. The training is only offered by Registered Training Organisations (RTO) that meet criteria set by the NSW Food Authority. Coffs Harbour City Council is not accredited to provide FSS training. On sucessful completion of the approved training course you will be issued with a certificate.

The only certificate that is valid proof of the approved FSS course looks like this:


The NSW Food Authority website provides more detail about which businesses need a FSS.



​From 1 July 2017 Council is pleased to provide you with FREE and unlimited access to the  I'm ALERT food safety training. This is an exciting new product that will assist you and your food handlers in gaining valuable skills and knowledge in food safety and hygiene, which will help to ensure only safe and suitable food is produced at your food business.

This programme is presented in an interactive, easy to follow, and entertaining format and includes the ability for the user to print off an acknowledgement form and a certificate upon completion that can be kept for staff records.

This training programme will assist food business managers in ensuring all staff are trained so it reduces the risk of food-borne illness resulting from poor food handling practices.

It is recommended that all food handlers within your food business take part in this training. This is a great opportunity to provide all your staff with training that would otherwise cost your business money and a great deal more in time.


​Council's Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) are tasked with enforcing food safety legislation that has been designed to protect public health. In fulfilling this role, the EHOs aim to educate businesses throughout the inspection process, with a view to proactive prevention being preferred to regulatory enforcement.

However there are instances where Council EHOs are required to initiate the appropriate, graduated and/or proportionate formal enforcement powers in accordance with Council's and the NSW Food Authority's Compliance and Enforcement policies.

Enforcement options include:

  • Written Warnings - Letters sent as a follow up to an inspection, making a formal record of non-compliance issues found and remediation actions required.
  • Improvement Notices - A written legal direction to undertake work/s to raise standards to legal compliance. These carry a fee of $330, which is payable by law. Further penalties can be applied for non-payment. Failure to comply with an Improvement Notice could result in formal closure of a business.
  • Penalty Infringement Notices (PINs) - On the spot fines for specific offences set by law. Most food related offences are $440 for an individual and $880 for a corporation. Multiple PINs could be issued at one time if the observed offences warrant it. Once issued, these are administered by the State Debt Recovery Office. Any PINs issued to a food business will automatically be published on the NSW Food Authority Name and Shame site.
  • Prohibition - In cases where there isa serious health risk or non-compliance with an Improvement Notice, EHOs are authorised to prohibit part or all of a business from handling or selling food as applicable.
  • Seizure - EHOs are authorised to seize food, vehicles and equipment etc. that do not comply with relevant parts of legislation.
  • Prosecution - Used in more serious cases or where compliance has not been achieved by any other means. The matter would likely be heard in the Local Court but in the most serious cases it could be passed to the Supreme Court. Prosecutions would also be published on the NSW Food Authority Name and Shame site.

Charities and Not for Profit Groups


​A charitable or not-for-profit organisation that sells food for fundraising purposes is a ‘food businesses’ under the Food Act 2003 (NSW).The food safety requirements in the Food Standards Code apply to their food activities, including the preparation and transport of food for sale.Charitable and not-for-profit organisations include:

  • Registered charities, hospitals, disability support groups, welfare groups
  • Local clubs, e.g. Lions, Rotary, Apex, Country Women’s Association
  • Youth organisations, e.g. YMCA, Scouts
  • Community schools, preschools and not-for-profit childcare centres.

Charitable and not for profit groups are exempt from the requirement to appoint Food Safety Supervisors.

Charitable and not for profit groups are also exempt from the requirement to notify Council if the food they sell is not potentially hazardous (i.e. does not require temperature control) or is be consumed immediately after cooking, e.g. a sausage sizzle.   However if you will be storing food hot or cold, making soups, curries or trays of sandwiches etc. then you should contact Council’s Environmental Health team and they can provide you with further advice regarding notification and inspection requirements.The factsheet Food Safety Requirements for Charitable and Not-for-profit Organisations provide more information.

Organisers of Temporary Events


​Temporary events include anything from the World Rally, to the Curryfest, to the local school fete.  As an organiser of a temporary event in Coffs Harbour, you will likely be interacting with several Council departments ranging from road closures to waste control etc.

There are many things you need to consider, however if you intend to allow food vendors to trade at the event, food safety should be high on the list of priorities.

The safety of the food that is served at your event is ultimately the responsibility of the food business proprietor. However in exercising your duty of care to those people coming to your event (and in many cases to comply with your Council consent to hold the event) as a minimum you must ensure:


  • Access to the following facilities during operation:
    • Clear access to an adequate supply of potable water (if hoses are used, they must be food grade.  Garden hoses are not suitable for food potable water transfer).
    • Facilities for waste disposal (consider both solid and liquid waste).
  • Each food business should provide:
    • Evidence of food business notification {link to notification section} with Coffs Harbour City Council, another local government authority or (in the case of those businesses who require a licence, such as primary producers), the NSW Food Authority.
    • Where available, a copy of a food safety inspection report, issued by a regulatory authority, no more than 12 months old.
    • A copy of a current Food Safety Supervisor Certificate, issued by NSW Food Authority.


If food is solely provided by charities or not for profit groups and is low risk or is cooked and immediately served, such as sausage sizzles, then the vendors do not need to have notified Council.

However they still need to meet all other food safety requirements.
Coordinators of markets and special events are encouraged to notify Council of who will be trading at the event including the name of the businesses, their home Council, their risk rating, evidence that the business has notified their home Council and confirmation of having been inspected within the current financial year. Officers will then determine if it is necessary to undertake food inspections of the vendors.  This decision will be based on perceived public health risk based on the following criteria:         

  • Projected numbers attending the event

  • Number of high risk and medium risk food businesses

  • Number of food businesses due for inspection

  • Number of out of town food businesses

  • Location of event and likely access to potable water


​If food safety inspections are undertaken at the event, in most cases Council costs will recover the cost of the inspections by invoicing the vendors.  However should officers find food vendors trading at the event, who were not included in the information provided to Council and inspection costs cannot be recovered, Council may deem it appropriate to recover costs from the event organiser.