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Food Act changes: Will it cost you less?

If you make or sell food, law changes could affect your costs. (Hint: it all comes down to risk.)

If you make or sell food, upcoming changes to the food safety law will affect your costs. For some, it will be cheaper to comply.

The main change is the new law is moving from a one-size-fits-all approach to one that regulates businesses differently depending on the level of risk involved in what they do.

Under the old rules, businesses were checked every year to make sure they met food safety rules. But from 1 March, you can be checked less often if you’re seen as low risk and manage food safety well. This could save your business money. Find out more about fees and charges for your food products (external link) on the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) website.

Is my business high or low risk?

The key to understanding how much the new rules will cost you is knowing what level of food safety risk your business has.

If your business is higher risk, you’ll have more responsibilities and higher costs than lower-risk businesses, but not necessarily more than you have now.

Check your level of risk

Check your level of risk

Registration fees

Under the current rules, you pay a fee to renew your registration every year. From 1 March, lower-risk businesses only need to renew and pay a fee every two years. Businesses can also reduce the frequency they get checked or audited by managing food safety well.

  • A high-risk business, eg a restaurant,might be checked as little as once every 18 months if it manages food safety well.
  • A lower-risk business, eg a corner dairy, might be checked once every two to three years.
  • A very low-risk business, eg those selling only hot drinks, might have a one-off check if no problems are reported.

These are harder to estimate, but could benefit many low- and medium-risk businesses. Under the old rules, the same standards of building maintenance applied to all food businesses. The new rules will assess each premises on the food safety risk of that business. So, a business selling pre-packaged food may not need to repair the same minor floor damage that a business making ready-to-eat foods would need to repair.

Find out more about fees and charges

Find out more about fees and charges

Read more on the MPI website (external link)

Timetable for the changes

The new rules apply to all new food businesses from 1 March 2016. But if you have an existing food businesses, you may not need to make changes straight away. See the timetable on the MPI website (external link) .

If your business has a very low food safety risk, you may not need to register. These include:

  • businesses that sell only pre-packaged foods that don't need refrigeration
  • growers who sell home-grown fruit and vegetables directly to customers
  • accommodation operators who provide food to fewer than 10 guests.

You can find the full list of exemptions on the Legislation website (external link) .

Subscribe to updates on the new law from MPI (external link) . Those who sign up will also be asked to take part in MPI’s survey later this year comparing the current costs of complying with food safety rules with costs under the new rules.

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