Key messages

  • Victoria classifies food premises according to the level of food safety risk and the type of food handled at the premises.
  • The food business classification tool helps council determine which class your business falls into.
  • Councils are responsible for classifying your food premises.
  • The class is determined by the type of food handled at the premises.
  • If you start handling different food, the council may need to reclassify your business.

Victoria uses a statewide food business classification system to determine the food premises regulatory requirement under the Food Act 1984. Classification is based solely on the microbial hazards posed by food handled on-site.

Councils are responsible for classifying every food premises within their municipalities according to their highest food handling risk.

The food business classification tool allows councils to use a consistent approach to categorising food premises.

Food premises will be classified into one of four separate classes.

Food premises are classified by answering the following questions:

  • Who will consume the food?
  • Is the food potentially hazardous or low risk?
  • Is the food packaged or unpackaged?
  • Is the premises a community-run event?

The risk classification tool has two components:

  • predetermined business classification list
  • business classification that have not been predetermined.

Business classification

The business classification tool has been developed in line with the Food Safety Risk Priority Classification Framework developed by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.

A large number of food premises have been preclassified. Councils should refer to the predetermined businesses classification section of the tool to determine if a particular business has been allocated a classification.

Many food establishments do not reflect a standard type. Today’s food sector is very dynamic, with many business varying their food product lines and services.

Food premises can be complex establishments that will sell and service food to a diverse customer base, using multiple processes and a mix of foods of varying degrees of potential hazards.

The predetermined business classification list is indicative and by no means exhaustive. The list of preclassified premises will continue to grow and develop as new types of food premises develop.

Registering councils will need to classify nonstandard premises to proceed with the registration process. Consequently, the second component of this tool was designed to enable councils to work through a number of steps to determine an appropriate classification for premises that have not been predetermined.

Undertaking the steps requires the registering council to answer a series of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions. This information is then used to select a classification using the following business classification that have not been predetermined.

To make this easier to apply, the classification tool section ‘Business classification not predetermined’ has five generic categories of food businesses and food handling activities:

  • manufacturers
  • warehouses/distributors
  • retailers
  • service sector
  • community groups.

Some food businesses may perform a number of different activities, so the business should be classified according to its highest risk activity. For example, a bakery that offers fresh sandwiches is classified according to its highest risk, which is sandwich preparation.

Businesses that have not been predetermined allocate themselves into a particular food category, using the tool. Please refer to the food business classification tool website.

Classes and moving between them

Food businesses that plan to alter the type of food sold from the premises will need to contact council, as this may affect the classification of the premises. This is an obligation under the Food Act. The council will decide whether reclassification of the food premises is required. If classification changes, this will affect the legislative requirements that must be met by the proprietor.

Classification is based on the type of food being handled in the food premises and not because of performance or compliance history.

Performance is a matter for each council to consider within their specific risk management framework.

Principal activity of a business

The ‘principal activity of a food business’ relates to the population targeted by the business. Class 1 premises are set up exclusively to service or process food for vulnerable people. For example, a catering company that processes food solely for a hospital or delivery meals organisation is considered to be a class 1 premises.

Food businesses that supply or process meals for the general community, as well as to vulnerable people in a class 1 premises, will not be considered a class 1 premises. For example, if a restaurant provides meals to the general community and also to children in a childcare centre, would be considered a class 2 premises. This interpretation also applies to takeaway shops located in an aged care facility or hospital.

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