Starting a food business

In South Australia, under Section 86 of the Food Act all food businesses must notify the appropriate enforcement agency before starting food handling operations. Your local council is usually the appropriate enforcement agency.

Before you notify and start operating your food business, it is best to contact the local council Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) to make sure you know what requirements your business needs to meet. EHOs may also discuss your business’ risk classification (see Priority Classification of Food Businesses) and will be able to advise you of any inspection fees.

Food legislation

All food businesses in South Australia are required to comply with food safety legislation including:

What is a food business?

Under the Food Act 2001 a food business means a business, enterprise or activity (other than a primary food production business) that involves:

  • The handling of food intended for sale; or
  • The sale of food,

Regardless of whether the business, enterprise or activity concerned is of a commercial, charitable or community nature or whether it involves the handling or sale of food on one occasion only.

Put simply a food business is any business or charity that sells food. Examples of food businesses include cafés, caterers, churches, cinemas, food trucks, hotels, manufacturers, restaurants, service stations, supermarkets.

All food businesses, from major food manufacturers to a local church group that holds a one-off food fair, have defined responsibilities under the legislation to ensure they make and sell safe food.

How do I notify?

Food businesses must, before starting food handling operations, notify the appropriate enforcement agency of their existence by lodging a completed Food Business Notification (FBN) form. In SA, the appropriate enforcement agency is the local council or local authority. Most councils will have a copy of the Food Business Notification form on their website. To find out which council your business is located in see LGA SA's SA Council Listing.

If you cannot locate your local councils Food Business Notification form or your food business is not within a council boundary you must lodge a completed Food Business Notification form to SA Health.

Failure to notify

If a food business does not notify the appropriate enforcement agency before starting, penalties and/or expiation fees under Section 86 of the Food Act 2001 may be applied.

Maximum penalty:

  • $120,000 if the offender is a body corporate
  • $25,000 if an individual person

Expiation fee:

  • $1,500 if the offender is a body corporate
  • $300 if an individual person.

Additional notification information

  • If a business has multiple food premises, a separate notification form is required for each site.
  • If there are any changes to the ownership, contact details, location or nature of the food business the business must notify the council of the changes before the changes take place.
  • There is no fee for notification.
  • Mobile food businesses such as food trucks must notify the council where the vehicle is normally garaged.
  • Caterers must notify the council where the majority of the food or equipment is stored and/or handled.

What training do I need?

In SA, food handling staff are not required to hold formal qualifications or attend a training course, however it is important (and a legal requirement) that food handlers have appropriate food safety and food hygiene skills and knowledge in line with the work they do.

For information on types of training and links to free training resources see the Skills and Knowledge for Food Handlers page, which includes a link to the free online food safety training program DoFoodSafely.

What is a primary food production business?

Under Section 7 of the Food Act 2001, primary food production refers to the growing, raising, cultivation, picking, harvesting, collection or catching of food and associated onsite activities, with the exception of any ‘substantial transformation of food’, direct sale of food to the public or activities regulated under the Primary Produce (Food Safety Schemes) Act and Primary Produce (Food Safety Schemes) Act 2004.

If your business activities are deemed primary food production, you are not required to notify your local council. However, there may be primary industries legislation that applies to your business where you may require accreditation. Visit the PIRSA - Food Safety web page for more information.

There are also some activities where a business may be captured under primary food production and food business activities. If your business conducts the following activities then you are captured as a food business and must notify the local council:

  • Any process involving the 'substantial transformation' of food for example a fruit or vegetable grower that makes mixed salad products
  • Sale or service of food direct to the public for example a farm restaurant, retail sale of food from the farm-gate or sale of seafood by the catcher directly to the public; and/or
  • Packing or treating of food under contract or that has been purchased, regardless of whether it was grown, raised, cultivated, picked, harvested, collected or caught onsite for example where a farm packs the produce of other growers as well as its own, or packs under contract for another business.

Further information

If you are unsure about your responsibilities please contact your local council or SA Health’s Food and Controlled Drugs Branch.