Dear Lifehacker, I've been tossing up the idea of selling the homegrown vegetable and fruit produce from my garden. I was thinking about local farmers' markets and cafe's. I was wondering what regulations and permits I would need to be aware of. Could you help me? Thanks, Sarah
Any person who sells edible goods is deemed to be a 'food business' and must comply with their state or territory Food Act. The Food Acts cover everything from safe and suitable foods to correct handling procedures. Failing to comply can result in stiff fines.
The following websites provide a comprehensive overview of the rules in each state and territory:
- NSW Food Authority: Home-based food businesses
- Victoria Health Department: Starting a food business
- Queensland Health Department: Food Safety
- ACT Health: Starting a Food Business in the ACT
- SA Health: Starting A Food Business
- WA Department Of Health: Thinking of starting a new food business?
- NT Department Of Health: Food Safety
- Tasmania Department of Health: Food Safety for Businesses and Community Organisations
Under the Food Act 2008, any business that sells food is required to be registered as a food business with their local government authority in which the place of manufacture or business is based. In other words, you will need approval from your council.
The first step is to apply for a business licence. Regulations and pricing can vary depending on where you live, but it's generally not too expensive. As long as you're not dealing with high-risk foods, gaining approval from your local council should be a painless procedure.
The laws surrounding the sale of homegrown produce vary depending on the state you're in and what you're selling. By and large, it is perfectly legal to sell fruit and vegetables in Australia provided the produce has simply been washed and refrigerated prior to selling. You can also display whole raw fruits and vegetables unpackaged, provided they are intended to be hulled, peeled or washed by the consumer.
However, if your food business involves frequent washing of fruit and vegetables, you are expected to have a dedicated sink to avoid cross-contamination with other foods. Furthermore, if you slice, cook, freeze of mix the produce you're selling, it is considered “processed” and you will need a council approved commercial kitchen.
There are additional rules surrounding ready-to-eat produce (i.e. -- food that is ordinarily consumed in the same state as that in which it is sold such as de-shelled nuts.) For example, you cannot transport them in cardboard or wood containers as these cannot be cleaned and sanitised like plastic.
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