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21 Oct 2019 | Simon Phillips

Food business responsibilities

It is good practice for food businesses to ensure that before anyone is allowed to start work as a food handler, they should at least receive oral or written instruction about the essentials of food hygiene.

Food businesses need to ensure that staff:

  • can locate and follow workplace information about their own food handling operations
  • can identify and correct (or report) situations or procedures that do not meet your business's agreed workplace practices
  • know their responsibilities about health and hygiene requirements.

Food handler requirements

All food handlers need to know how the work they do can affect the safety of the food.
'People who handle food' refers to anyone who is involved in any activity that involves food or surfaces likely to come in contact with food, including those in:

  • manufacturing
  • processing
  • preparing - such as chopping, cooking, thawing
  • delivering and transporting
  • packing
  • cleaning tableware or equipment that comes in contact with food.

Food handlers need the skills and knowledge required to keep food safe for the jobs they carry out in the business. They do not need skills and knowledge for all of the jobs in the business. For example, a cook will need skills and knowledge in food safety and food hygiene that are quite different from those needed by front-of-house staff or a dishwasher. If food handlers do different work from time to time, such as taking over the duties of other food handlers when they are away or supervising other food handlers, then they must also have the skills and knowledge needed for that work.


General practices

Most food handlers will need:

  • personal hygiene practices that all food handlers preparing food know and put into practice
  • food handling practices, to prepare and store food correctly
  • hygiene practices, to ensure the food premises and equipment are clean and well maintained.

Specific practices

Specific knowledge is the skills and knowledge needed for more specific food handling operations, such as receiving food into premises, and cooking, reheating, cooling and disposing food.

Food handler training

Food handlers do not have to attend food safety training courses to meet the skills and knowledge requirements. There are many approaches to training that a food business can adopt, such as on-the-job training, recognising previous experience or attending a training course.

A food business might decide that formal training is the best approach, especially if the required skills and knowledge are more complex. This may be most appropriate in the manufacturing sector or in a hospital.

Skills, knowledge, food safety and hygiene

A skill is being able to do something. It means that food handlers and their supervisors are able to do the things in their work that keep food safe. Knowledge is knowing about or understanding something. It means that food handlers and their supervisors know what must be done to keep food safe.
Food safety is ensuring that food is safe to eat.
Food hygiene is keeping food premises and equipment clean.
Personal hygiene is ensuring the food handler is clean and wears clean clothing.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand

Australian Food Safety Standard 3.2.2 (Food Safety Practices and General Requirements) requires that people who handle food, and the people who supervise them, have the skills and knowledge in food safety and food hygiene for the work they do.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has also developed Food safety: Guidance on skills and knowledge for food businesses - advice for food businesses on the skills and knowledge requirement of Food Safety Standard 3.2.2.

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