Food business classes

The Food Act 1984 controls the sale of food in Victoria. All food businesses must ensure that the food they sell or prepare for sale is safe for human consumption. The main purpose of this legislation is to protect people from food-borne illness.

The Food Act adopts a preventative approach to food safety. It groups food premises into separate classes, and sets out different food safety requirements for each class based on the food safety risks of its highest risk food handling activity. There are four classes – from highest risk (class 1), such as a nursing home, to lowest risk (class 4), such as a newsagent selling only pre-packaged confectionery.

When you start a food business you have to Register your food business with Council. As part of this registration process, Council classifies your food business into one of four classes, which are set out in the Food Act.

The Department of Health has a Food business classification tool to help you find out the correct classification for your food business. This tool outlines a wide range of food business activities and applies a classification of 1 to 4 according to the food safety risk of each activity.

If you change the type of food that you handle, this may alter the class of your food business.

Class 1 food premises

Class 1 food premises have the highest food safety risks. These premises predominantly handle potentially hazardous food that is served to vulnerable people in:

  • hospitals
  • child care centres providing long day care, and
  • aged care facilities, such as nursing homes.

Class 1 food businesses must have a tailored food safety program appropriate to their food business activities and a food safety supervisor at all times and to register a new premise.

The Department of Health has more information on food safety programs for class 1 food premises.

Class 2 food premises

Class 2 food premises are those that handle unpackaged potentially hazardous foods that need correct temperature control during the food handling process - including cooking and storage - to keep them safe. Class 2 premises include:

  • restaurants
  • fast food outlets
  • pubs
  • caterers
  • delicatessens
  • supermarkets with delicatessens
  • cafes
  • food vending machines handling high risk foods, and
  • most manufacturers.

Class 2 food businesses must have a tailored food safety program appropriate to their food business activities and a food safety supervisor.

A food safety program is a plan that shows what a business does to ensure that the food it sells is safe for human consumption. It is an important tool for helping businesses that handle, process or sell potentially hazardous foods to maintain safe food handling practices and protect people's health.

Class 2 food premises have more choice than Class 1 premises in how they develop their food safety program. The food safety program for Class 2 premises can be:

  • completed using any suitable template registered with the Department of Health, or
  • an independent ('non-standard') program that is developed specifically for the premises.

Food businesses can develop their own food safety program using a registered food safety program template.

The Department of Health has a simplified food safety program template for class 2 premises. This template is suitable for a range of class 2 premises, including cafes and restaurants. A business with multiple associated class 2 food premises can also use it for all their class 2 activities. For example:

  • a restaurant that also provides off-site catering, or
  • a business that prepares food at a permanent site and sells it from a stall at markets.

A free food safety program template for class 2 retail and food service businesses is also available on FoodSmart. FoodSmart is a Victorian government website designed to help retail and food service businesses develop their food safety programs.

Class 3 food premises

Class 3 food premises are those whose main activities involve the sale of foods not commonly associated with food poisoning. This includes the supply or handling of unpackaged low risk foods, or sale of pre-packaged potentially hazardous foods that simply need refrigeration to keep them safe.

Premises expected to fall into class 3 include:

  • fruit stalls selling cut fruit
  • wholesalers distributing pre-packaged foods
  • most milk bars, convenience stores and coffee bars, and
  • food vending machines handling lower risk foods.

Due to the lower food safety risk associated with the food handling activities at these premises, class 3 food premises do not need a food safety program, however they do need to keep completed basic records about certain food safety practices onsite. This includes details about suppliers and potentially hazardous food.

Class 4 food premises

Class 4 food premises are those whose food handling activities pose a low risk to public health, including:

  • premises that sell shelf-stable prepackaged confectionery, such as newsagents, pharmacies, video stores and bottle shops
  • premises that sell uncut fruit and vegetables, such as farmers markets and greengrocers
  • premises offering wine tastings
  • shops and stalls selling packaged cakes (excluding cream cakes), bottled jams and honey
  • sessional kindergartens serving low risk food and cut fruit, and
  • stalls at community fundraising events operating simple sausage sizzles, where the sausages are cooked and served immediately. This means sausages, sauce, onions and bread, not hamburgers, egg and bacon rolls or other high risk foods.

Temporary or mobile food premises

Temporary food premises, such as food stalls at markets and festivals, are required to register or notify their principal Council and lodge a Statement of Trade form each time they operate. For more information, see temporary food stalls and mobile food premises.