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Food-sellers: Deadline for registering coming soon

If you sell food and haven’t yet registered for the new Food Act, check if you must do this — a number of types of food business must register by 31 March 2018.

New rules may apply to all types of food businesses, from cafes to coffee carts, food trucks to butchers, food manufacturers to dairies.

Who needs to register

A law change last year means food safety rules are tailored to individual businesses, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach.

Under the Food Act 2014, new food businesses must register when they start trading. Existing food businesses (operating under the Food Hygiene Regulations 1974) have been registered in stages since the new laws came in, with a different group registering each year.

Among the group that needs to register by 31 March 2018 are:

  • cafes and clubs without an alcohol licence
  • bakeries
  • caterers
  • rest homes
  • dairies
  • convenience stores
  • some food manufacturers, eg makers of fresh pasta, and chilled or frozen meals and desserts.

Businesses that must register by March 2018 (external link) – Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI)

More business types will need to register by November 2018, including brewers, makers of spreads and preserves, and many other food manufacturers.

Don’t leave it to the last minute. Check now to see if you need to register.

Don’t leave it to the last minute. Check now to see if you need to register.

Use this MPI tool to check how the rules apply to you — and your deadline for registering.

Find out where you fit (external link) – MPI

How to register

You’ll need to register with either your local council, or with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), depending on:

  • whether your business has more complex food safety issues and so must have a customised food control plan
  • how many sites you have around the country.

Watch Jordan and Shiggy, who run an Auckland brewery, describe how they meet their food safety requirements under the Food Act. This includes training staff, and keeping records to trace their products.

No need to register

While most people or businesses selling food will need to register, the Food Act does allow for some cultural and fundraising activities without registration. Those who don’t need to register include people who make food to:

  • be served on a marae, eg at a tangi
  • be sold at a fundraising event, eg at a club, school or marae — unless fundraisers are held more than 20 times a year 
  • donate to charities or community organisations.

But remember, all food must be safe to eat and be what it says it is, eg egg and lettuce sandwiches shouldn’t unexpectedly contain nuts. It’s a good idea to use MPI’s food safety tips for commercial food businesses:

  1. Get the right training — so makers and servers know how to keep food safe.
  2. Clean and sanitise to stop germs spreading.
  3. Cook and store food at the right temperature.
  4. Keep cooked, raw and allergen food separate.
  5. Wash your hands properly.

Keeping food safe

The Food Act 2014 changed the way businesses must manage food preparation and sales. It is designed to make sure that food sold in New Zealand is safe by:

  • Using a sliding scale so businesses with complex food safety risks, eg some food manufacturers, have stricter controls than lower-risk businesses, eg a corner dairy that reheats meat pies for sale.
  • Focusing on the processes of food production, not the premises where the food is made, eg so both a food truck and a restaurant must show how they keep food safe.
  • Introducing new food safety measures based on risk ratings:
    • Higher-risk businesses often have a written plan explaining how they manage food safety on a day-to-day basis.

      Food control plans (external link) — Ministry of Primary Industries

    • Medium and low-risk businesses often follow national programmes — they don’t need a written plan but must follow some rules and be able to explain what they do to keep food safe.

      National programmes (external link) — Ministry of Primary Industries

Whether you’re under a food control plan or a national programme, you still need to register, meet the standards, keep some records and get checked.

Home bakers and cooks

Watch Kim, who runs a business baking and decorating cakes from her Whangarei home, describe how she stays in line with the new Food Act rules, including a food control plan and registering with her local council.

Case study

Common sense food control

When Casey and her husband Sonny bought a Gisborne café, they wanted to do all they could to keep food safe to eat — especially in the warmer summer months, when food needs to be kept chilled and protected against insects.

The couple set up a food plan, with the help of local council environmental health officers.

The main thing their food plan involves is keeping a food diary. Casey updates it each day with information about:

    the cleaning schedule
    staff training
    refrigeration chiller temperatures
    checking for rodents.

“A lot of it is common sense. It’s a checklist of all the things I’m used to doing,” says Casey, a trained chef who worked in local restaurants before setting up her own business.

“But it’s a useful reminder if I’m in a rush, or if we hire a new worker. We usually take on extra staff to help in the summer rush. Some of them have little experience in the food industry. If they’ve got no idea about food safety, it’s a great training aid and helps them do their job thoroughly.”

Do you have more questions about the new Food Act?

Do you have more questions about the new Food Act?

Contact MPI by freephone at 0800 00 83 33 or by email at