FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
You can use this section to get a brief answer to frequently asked questions regarding food safety programs. Please note that responses to these frequently asked questions are based on the requirements of Queensland’s food safety legislation and are not reflective of other policies or requirements on your premises, such as infection control practices.
How do I get my food safety program accredited in Queensland?
Contact your local Council for information on accreditation processes for your Food Safety Program, as they do vary between Councils. In some cases, the Council will only accept Food Safety Programs which have had an audit already conducted by an authorised Third-Party Auditor. You will need to pay the Auditor to check your Food Safety Program. In other cases, the Council will check the Food Safety Program themselves, and will charge you again even if you have already paid an Auditor to look at the program. Thus, check the correct procedures with your local Council before assuming you need a Third-Party Audit to achieve accreditation.
Auditing Food Safety (Brisbane) is a Queensland Health authorized Third-Party auditor
What happens after my food safety program is accredited (Queensland)?
After you have achieved accreditation of your Food Safety Program, you will be required to schedule a Third-Party Audit within 6 months of accreditation. This audit will be conducted to ensure your Food Safety Program has been implemented in your business, and that your records and logsheets are being completed as per the Food Safety Program procedures.
After this, a Third-Party Audit will be required once every 12 months, or at the frequency determined by the local government who accredited your Food Safety Program.
Ensure that you keep a copy of the Food Safety Program in the kitchen (or where it can easily be accessed by food handlers). It is recommended that you keep a second copy in the office also, to ensure there is a Food Safety Program available onsite at all times.
How do I find an approved auditor?
To find an authorised Third-Party Auditor, see the Auditor listings on your State or Territory Food Authority website.
Auditing Food Safety (Brisbane) is an authorized Third-Party Auditor in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. We are authorized to perform audits throughout these states in the areas of:
- Processing/manufacture of food, or food service for vulnerable populations including hospital, aged care and child care facilities
- Processing/manufacture of food, or food service, for catering operations
- General processing/manufacture of food
- Sale of food by wholesale or retail
- Food service operations including restaurants and takeaways
- Processing/manufacture of 'high-risk' food (including heat treatment processes).
Please feel free to contact us if you would like further information.
What happens after an audit?
After an audit, you will receive a copy of the audit report within two weeks. A copy of this report is also provided to your licensing body (such as your local Council).
The report will identify non-conformances which require action, for example if you are not following the procedures in your Food Safety Program, or if your Records/Log sheets have not been completed correctly. Serious non-conformances which could affect food safety will be referred to your local government by the auditor.
Generally, areas for improvement will be discussed with you, and a suitable time-frame set by the auditor to fix the non-conformances. The auditor will most likely return to ensure the non-conformances have been closed-out. For serious non-conformances this may be a short time period - however if there were no major problems, the auditor will check your improvements during the next scheduled audit (usually a year later).
What & who is a Food Safety Supervisor?
The Food Safety Supervisor (FSS) is a person nominated by the owner of a food business to supervise food handling staff, and identify food safety hazards in the workplace. Food Safety Supervisors are a requirement for all food businesses in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. The owner of the business cannot nominate you as the Food Safety Supervisor without your consent.
A Food Safety Supervisor must:
- Have the correct Units of Competency issued from a Registered Training Organisation. The Units of Competency are specific to the sector you work in, including Healthcare, Retail, Hospitality and Food Processing.
- Have the ability and the authority to supervise and instruct other food handlers on safe food handling practices
- Know how to identify a food safety hazard, prevent food safety hazards, and take action to alleviate hazards where required.
In Queensland, a Food Safety Supervisor is also required to be reasonably available at all times the business is operating - however a QLD business may nominated more than one staff member as a Food Safety Supervisor. Where all Food Safety Supervisors are unavailable, a Food Safety Program must be available for staff to refer to.
How do I become a Food Safety Supervisor?
A nominated Food Safety Supervisor is currently a legislative requirement for all food businesses in Victoria, and for all non-healthcare food businesses in Queensland. Although not a requirement in other States or Territories yet, there is still a National legislative requirement that Supervisors have skills and knowledge for their role. Because of this, some food businesses still decide that their Supervisors achieve accredited training as part of their internal training policy.
A Food Safety Supervisor can only be nominated if they have completed accredited training with a Registered Training Organisation (RTO), such as a TAFE or a private RTO. The accredited training will include specific Units of Competency to be achieved, which are different for each sector you may work in. For example, there are Units for healthcare, hospitality, retail or food processing.
On successful completion of accredited training, you will receive a Statement of Attainment listing the Units of Competency achieved. If you have hospitality units on your Certificate, this means you cannot be nominated as a Food Safety Supervisor in the healthcare sector, unless you attend further training.
For information on the Units of Competency required, please contact your local Council.
Does the FSS have to be at the business all the time?
No. The Food Safety Supervisor does not always have to be physically present during food handling operations.
However, if the Food Safety Supervisor is not onsite and there is no other trained Supervisor, they should still be available to answer questions on food safety if required (e.g. mobile phone contact). If there are times that the Food Safety Supervisor cannot be contacted, then access to the Food Safety Program procedures is essential for staff so that they can check procedures and refer to the pre-written 'Corrective Actions' to assist them in following procedures if something goes wrong.
If the Food Safety Supervisor is away, it is important that all documentation is completed as per the Food Safety Program, so it is a good idea for the Food Safety Supervisor to train other staff members to understand the role of the Food Safety Supervisor if they will be away.
How often do I need to monitor?
" Refrigeration units
" Other temperatures
" Personal hygiene
" Food receipt
There is no prescribed frequency for monitoring controls in your food safety program. The appropriate frequency must be determined on a case by case basis. The Environmental Health Officer from your local government will assist in determining an appropriate frequency for your premises that will provide sufficient historical information without imposing resource intensive work practices.
Do I need to have a dummy plate made up to verify my processes?
A dummy plate may be an effective means of verifying the food service process. However, as with monitoring, there is no prescribed frequency for how often this needs to occur.
What is the 4-hour/2-hour guide?
The 4-hour/2-hour guide is a scientifically validated method of using time to control the safety of ready-to-eat potentially hazardous foods.
How soon should potentially hazardous food be refrigerated after it is cooked?
Potentially hazardous foods to be cooled and used later should be refrigerated as soon as possible after cooking. According to the Food Safety Standards, to safely cool food it must be cooled from 60ºC to 21ºC within 2 hours, then from 21ºC to 5ºC or less within the next 4 hours (6 hours total). If you leave food on the bench for 2 hours, it will not be able to cool quickly enough to meet the cooling rule above. Thus, you need to put food into refrigeration as soon as possible, generally no longer than half an hour after cooking ends.
Before cooling, ensure you decant soups, gravies, custards or stews into shallow containers - they will not cool rapidly enough in a deep cooking pot, even if you put the cooking pot into the coolroom or fridge. If you are cooling down roast meats, you should divide into smaller portions before cooling.
If you conduct a large amount of cooling each day, or if you find that you cannot cool food fast enough in your current cool room or fridge, you may wish to consider the purchase of a blast chiller. A blast chiller is an excellent investment as it can cool food from steaming hot, to below 5ºC within 90 minutes. It also has the ability to improve the shelf life of foods.
What is skills and knowledge?
Skills and knowledge is the requirement for all people involved in the handling of food to understand and demonstrate appropriate food safety and food hygiene practices.
Do I need to go to a training course to get skills and knowledge?
No. Skills and knowledge for food handlers can be obtained in many ways beyond formal training courses. However contact your local government for information relating to the competencies required for a food safety supervisor.
Can I set my controls more stringent than the legislative requirements?
Yes. However, when your premises is audited, you need to demonstrate that you are complying with the requirements of your food safety program.
Can I designate more than one food safety supervisor?
Yes. Many facilities will have to have more than one person as a food safety supervisor who must be reasonably available while food handling is being undertaken.
What skills and knowledge does the food safety supervisor need?
The food safety supervisor must have the same skills and knowledge as all food handlers which they supervise. In addition, food safety supervisors must also meet certain competencies in food safety. Your local government will be able to advise you of these competencies.
What is safe and suitable food?
Food is considered to be unsafe if it is likely to cause physical harm (eg illness). Unsuitable food is damaged or deteriorated in a way to prevent its use (eg mould growth, foreign objects).
Can I use bleach to clean my benches?
Chlorine bleach is an acceptable chemical bleach for use in sanitising food contact surfaces and utensils.
When food is delivered, what is the onus of the receiver?
It is important that you check food is safe before accepting into your business. Once you accept food, it is considered 'food for sale' in your business, and is your responsibility.
On delivery, you need to check that potentially hazardous cold food is received at 5oC or below, and hot food 60oC or above unless the supplier can otherwise demonstrate the microbiological safety of the food. Frozen food must be received hard frozen.
If you are not satisfied with the safety of the foods received you have the right to refuse the delivery and have it returned to the supplier.
Can I accept a product with broken packaging?
No. The Food Safety Standards specify that you must only accept food that is protected from the likelihood of contamination. Food receipt is the first point that you have real control over the safety of food. When you receive food in broken packaging, you cannot be sure that it has not been contaminated and should be returned to the supplier.
What should I do if suppliers deliver food outside the hours of operation, and leave the food on the ground outside?
It is important to ensure that any food you bring into your premises is safe and suitable. Once you accept food into your business, it is considered 'food for sale', and could be tested for its safety by an Environmental Health Officer.
If you do not know that food is safe on delivery, then you should refuse it.
If food has been left outside, it is not good practice to accept the food as you do not know how long it has been out of temperature control, and you do not know if animals, pests or humans have tampered with the food.
It is not good practice to give the supplier a key to your business. Apart from security issues, you still do not have any documentation to prove the food was an acceptable temperature on delivery.
Contact your supplier to arrange a suitable time for deliveries - remember, it is 'convenient' for the supplier to leave food outside if you are not there. However, your business is responsibile for serving safe and suitable food. Leaving food outside is not convenient for you, the buyer, as it may affect your reputation, your customers, and your business.
You may need to arrange for a staff member to be onsite to accept deliveries at an agreed time between you and the supplier. If your supplier is unable to deliver food during a suitable time for your business, you may need to consider changing suppliers to ensure that the food you accept is safe and suitable for use in your business.
How do I know that the truck operator has not had potentially hazardous food out of temperature control for more than 2 hours?
Food businesses have the right to ask transporters if, and how long, potentially hazardous foods have been outside of temperature control; food transporters carrying these types of foods are also food businesses and are thus required to meet the Standards.
Some refrigerated transport vehicles produce data logs that record the temperature of foods for up to 48 hours - food receivers can ask to view those data logs. If transporters cannot demonstrate that the food is safe the food business should not accept the food.
On delivery, you should always check a sample temperature of high risk foods. If the food is above 5 degrees celsius, you should not accept the delivery.
Can food be refrozen?
It is best practice not to re-freeze foods after thawing, unless you have cooked them. For example, if you thaw raw mince meat then cook it in a bolognaise sauce, you can freeze the cooked sauce to use at a later date. However, if you did not use the raw mince meat, you cannot put the raw meat back into the freezer. This is because the shelf-life of the food has been altered once removed from frozen storage, plus the quality of food will also deteriorate with freezing and refreezing.
What are the best methods to defrost foods?
Thaw or defrost foods in a cool room or refrigerator, to ensure that it is kept at a safe temperature while thawing. If you require a quick thaw of foods, you may use a microwave - however if you use a microwave you must cook the food immediately. Do not thaw food on the bench, or in the sink.
Will freezing/boiling food destroy bacteria
Freezing will kill some bacteria but cannot be relied upon to make food safe.
Boiling or applying heat processes will kill bacteria if the temperatures are high enough for a long enough period of time, but not bacterial spores which can germinate after the food has cooled and grow to sufficient numbers to cause illness if the food is out of temperature control for too long. Toxins produced by some bacteria can also survive heat application.
Can my food safety program be used for national accreditation?
Queensland Health is currently consulting with national bodies to establish recognised food safety programs developed under Queensland's legislative requirements for national accreditation purposes. Information will be distributed at the outcome of this consultation.
Do I have to wear hairnets, hats or gloves to handle food?
No. Hairnets and gloves are not a mandatory requirement of food legislation. However, food handlers are required to prevent food being contaminated by anything from their body (eg. hair, fingernails, band aids, jewellery etc). Hairnets, hats and gloves may be the most effective means to prevent contamination, depending on the nature of your food handling activities.
Do I have to have a thermometer?
Yes. All food premises are required to have at least one probe thermometer accurate to +/- 1°C on the premises.
How do I check the temperature of packaged foods (eg. milk, packaged frozen chickens)?
It is not expected that the temperature of these items be measured by breaking the packaging at the point of food receipt. This may lead to issues of contamination if undertaken outside in a delivery area. The most appropriate method is to place your thermometer between two packages (eg. between 2 bottles of milk). If this method is used, it may take a slightly longer period for your thermometer to adjust and provide an accurate temperature.
What sort of thermometers are required - probe or infrared?
Probe thermometers are required to check the core temperature of food, especially for cooking, reheating, hot holding or cold storage food temperatures.
Infrared thermometers are useful but only measure the surface temperature of the foods, thus they are only useful for certain applications such as a quick temperature check of food on delivery. You cannot check core food temperatures with an infrared thermometer.
Remember that you must also regularly calibrate your thermometers. While it is relatively easy to calibrate a probe thermometer using the ice-point or boiling-point method, it is much harder to accurately calibrate an infrared thermometer. Often, you will need to send the infrared thermometer back to the manufacturer to be calibrated
Are thermostats on cool rooms and bain-maries reliable? How do we check them?
Thermostats do not always give a reliable measure of temperature - for example different areas in a cool room may not receive the same air flow as others resulting in temperature variations; thermostats in Bain-maries measure the temperature of the water, not the temperature of the food etc. An easy way to check temperatures in a cool room or fridge is to place the probe thermometer in a cup of water and move the cup into different locations to check the temperature in various parts of the cool room/fridge. The temperature of the food in bain-maries should be checked by placing the probe thermometer in each food - clean with warm soapy water and then sanitise the probe between measuring each type of food.
Are whole & cut vegetables potentially hazardous?
Whole uncut vegetables or cooked vegetables are not potentially hazardous. However, once salad vegetables have been cut or processed, the likelihood of bacterial contamination increases, particularly for a bacteria called Listeria. Listeria has been known to survive and grow on salads under refrigerated conditions, and can cause serious problems to vulnerable populations, such as the elderly or pregnant women. If you are serving uncooked vegetables (such as salads) to a vulnerable population (such as in hospitals or aged care), it is best practice to sanitise the salad vegetables before use with a foodgrade sanitiser, and use the prepared salad (or sandwich containing the salad) within 24 hours of preparation. While these precautions are best practice for the healthcare sector in most States and Territories, NSW has made this practice mandatory under the Vulnerable Persons Food Safety Scheme.
What foods are 'potentially hazardous foods'?
Potentially hazardous foods either might contain food-poisoning bacteria, or are high in protein and low in acidity allowing food-poisoning bacteria to multiply.
Potentially hazardous foods include:
- Raw and cooked meat, poultry or game (e.g. casseroles, lasagne, roasts etc.)
- Smallgoods (e.g. salami, ham or chicken loaf)
- Dairy products (e.g. milk, custard, cheesecakes, cheese, yoghurt etc.)
- Seafood (e.g fish, sushi, oysters, prawns, dishes made with fish-stock etc.)
- Processed fruits and vegetables (e.g. prepared salads, cut melon etc.)
- Cooked rice and pasta (as soon as you add moisture);
- Moist foods containing eggs, beans, nuts (e.g. quiche, fresh soy bean products etc.); and
- Any dishes/foods that contain the above examples foods (e.g. sandwiches, pizzas etc.)
Can the "cook's dishes" be washed in the sink that is used to wash vegetables and salad ingredients? Does the sink have to be sanitised between use?
The Food Safety Standards require fixture, fittings and equipment adequate for producing safe and suitable food. If you regularly wash fruits and vegetables, you will be required to have a designated food preparation sink. This sink should not be used for washing equipment and utensils or hand washing. The food preparation sink must also be sanitised before being used for washing foods.
Are the kitchen and other areas (eg. Cool rooms) restricted to access only by food handlers?
There is no restriction of access in Queensland's legislation. However, any person who enters a food premises has a responsibility to ensure they do not contaminate foodor act in a way that may cause food to become unsafe or unsuitable. This includes how they store their food (eg. if they put their lunch in the cool room), not sitting on benches, not smoking, spitting etc and not handling food unless they have appropriate skills and knowledge to do so.