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Health and hygiene responsibilities for food business

Food businesses have an overarching responsibility to ensure the safety of the food they produce. Under Standard 3.2.2 Food Safety Practices and General Requirements and Standard 3.2.3 Food and Equipment of the Australia New Zealand Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, there specific health and hygiene requirements are set out for food businesses. These include responsibilities around the health of food handlers, the hygiene of food handlers and other general duties.

Health of food handlers when unwell

Both food handlers and food businesses have specified legal responsibilities to ensure that food is not to be prepared or handled by anyone who is suffering from a gastrointestinal illness.

Food handlers

If you handle food while suffering from or recovering from a gastrointestinal illness, there is a likelihood of food being contaminated.

It is an offence to handle food while suffering from, or recovering from a gastrointestinal illness.

If suffering from gastroenteritis, SA Health recommends you should not return to work at least 48 hours after all symptoms have stopped. Symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhoea, sore throat, fevers. If you have these symptoms or suspect that you are suffering from a food borne disease or are a carrier, legally you must notify your workplace.

It is also an offence if you handle food whilst unwell and do not notify your workplace.

Food businesses

Food businesses have a responsibility to ensure that food handlers who are suffering from or are a carrier of a food borne disease do not engage in any food handling activities. This can also include food handlers which are known or reasonably suspected to have a symptom indicating that they are suffering from a food borne disease. If no activities are suitable, or the facilities are not adequate to prevent the risk of contamination, the food handler may be restricted from a food business completely.

Food businesses may exclude a food handler from handling food or working within a food premises until after receiving advice from a medical practitioner that they are no longer suffering from or a carrier of a food borne disease.

It is an offence if a food business knowingly allows a food handler to handle food while suffering from, or recovering from a gastrointestinal illness.

Hygiene of food handlers

Hand washing

Food businesses are responsible for providing appropriate hand washing facilities for each food premises. This includes ensuring that the hand washing facilities (PDF 111KB) are accessible, correctly supplied, only used for their intended purpose and provide facilities to dry hands after washing.

Other general duties

Food businesses must take all practicable measures to ensure that all people on the food premises:

  • do not contaminate food
  • do not have unnecessary contact with ready-to-eat food
  • do not spit, smoke, or use tobacco or similar preparations in areas where there is unprotected food or surfaces that are likely to come into contact with food.

Although food handlers are responsible for the safe handling of food, it is the food business’ responsibility to ensure that all food handlers are informed of their health and hygiene obligations. Apart from the proprietor or an authorised officer, food businesses must protect the privacy of the food handler with regards to the information they provide in relation to health and hygiene matters.

Further information

For further information on food business' health and hygiene responsibilities, contact SA Health's Food Safety and Nutrition Branch.

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