Skills and knowledge for food handlers

Food businesses have a legal responsibility under Standard 3.2.2 Clause 3 of the Food Standards Code to make sure staff who undertake or supervise food handling activities have skills and knowledge in food safety and food hygiene commensurate with their work activities, to ensure safe food is prepared.


  • Skills – the ability to perform their tasks.
  • Knowledge – an understanding of the issues and risks associated with their tasks.
  • Food safety – what staff need to do to keep food safe.
  • Food hygiene – actions staff need to take to prevent contaminating food they are handling.
  • Commensurate with their work activities – having skills and knowledge for the tasks that they do in the business, but not necessarily for all tasks.
    For example, a cook will need skills and knowledge in many areas of food safety and hygiene including safe temperature, protection from contamination and cleaning and sanitising; however, a waiter may only need to understand basic contamination controls. Note: if staff help with other tasks when people are away, i.e. a waiter helps out with food preparation, they must have the skills and knowledge to perform the tasks safely.

What food safety knowledge do I need?

Food business proprietors and food handlers must have knowledge of food safety risks and controls and must know and comply with all relevant Standards in the Food Standards Code. Click the links to find more information on basic food safety principles such as:

Some food handlers will be able to demonstrate their food safety skills and knowledge from previous experience whereas others may require training. Regardless food handlers must be trained to undertake tasks in the business where they work as processes may differ from site to site.

How can I train my staff?

In SA, food handlers are not required to have formal training qualifications in food safety, but they must have and demonstrate their food safety and hygiene skills and knowledge. There are many ways to train staff and businesses can choose the approach that best suits their needs. Businesses may use one or more of these training options:

  • formal training courses from RTOs
  • informal training courses from regulators (i.e. local council) or qualified consultants
  • in-house training sessions
  • on-the-job training under more experienced staff members
  • providing SOPs for staff to follow
  • providing links to online information
  • providing visual materials (e.g. posters, fact sheets).

The proprietor of a business has the responsibility to check that staff have adequate food safety and hygiene skills and knowledge. Maintaining staff training records is a useful tool to keep track of this requirement.

Where can I find food safety training resources?

Links to many useful posters, fact sheets and training resources are available on our Food business resources page.

SA Health in partnership with Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services and the Queensland Government offer a free online food safety learning program DoFoodSafely. This training program is available in multiple languages and is designed to educate food handlers and business owners on how to safely handle food safely, in line with current legislative requirements. For more information, visit the DoFoodSafely website.

Other sources of food safety information can be gained from:

  • Food Standards Australia New Zealand’s InfoBites
  • your local council Environmental Health Officers
  • teaching institutions such as TAFE SA or other RTOs
  • industry associations

Further information

For further information on food handlers skills and knowledge, see FSANZ’s Food Safety: Skills and knowledge for food businesses webpage, contact your local council’s Environmental Health department or SA Health’s Food and Controlled Drugs Branch.