The Food Act in Queensland: Ensuring Food Safety

The Food Act in Queensland: Ensuring Food Safety



The Food Act 2006 is the cornerstone of food safety regulation in Queensland. This legislation was enacted to ensure that food for sale is safe and suitable for human consumption. The Act is comprehensive, covering various aspects of food safety, from the licensing of food businesses to the enforcement of food safety standards.

Scope and Objectives

The legislation contains a number of key objectives:

Safe and Suitable Food

The primary objective of the Food Act is to ensure that all food sold in Queensland is safe and suitable for consumption. This involves preventing the sale of food that is contaminated, improperly prepared, or otherwise hazardous to health.

Food and Business Licensing

The Act requires that all food businesses operating in Queensland obtain the necessary licenses. These licenses are issued based on compliance with food safety standards and are subject to regular inspections and audits.

Food Safety Prosecutions

Certain high-risk food businesses are required to implement and maintain food safety programs. These programs must identify potential food safety hazards. Once a hazard is identified, outline control measures are implemented to manage these risks.


The responsibility for administering the Food Act is shared between Queensland Health and local government authorities. Queensland Health handles statewide food safety issues, while local governments manage local food safety concerns.

Queensland Health and local governments often collaborate with other agencies, such as the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, to investigate breaches that may involve multiple jurisdictions or specialized expertise.


Investigations into potential breaches of the Food Act are a critical component of maintaining food safety standards in Queensland. These investigations are typically triggered by complaints from the public, routine inspections, or notifications from other agencies.

Investigation Process

When a complaint or notification is received, assessment is done to determine whether it warrants further investigation. This involves gathering preliminary information and determining the potential risk to public health.

If a breach is suspected, a site inspection is conducted. Inspectors visit the food business to assess compliance with the Food Act. They examine food handling practices, storage conditions, cleanliness, and overall food safety management.

During inspections, samples of food may be taken for laboratory testing. This helps to identify any contamination or non-compliance with food safety standards.

Inspectors document their findings and gather evidence such as; photographs, witness statements, and test results. This documentation is crucial for building a case if enforcement action is required.


Enforcing the Food Act involves taking appropriate actions against food businesses that fail to comply with food safety standards. The enforcement process is designed to protect public health while ensuring that businesses are given a fair opportunity to rectify any issues.

Enforcement Tools

There are a number of different tools that can be utilised in the enforcement of breaches, including:

1.             Improvement Notices: An improvement notice is issued when a food business is found to be in breach of the Food Act but the breach does not pose an immediate risk to public health. The notice specifies the non-compliance issues and provides a timeframe for the business to address them.

2.             Prohibition Orders: In cases where there is an immediate threat to public health, a prohibition order may be issued. This order can prevent the sale of certain foods or even close the food business until the issues are resolved.

3.             Infringement Notices: Also known as on-the-spot fines, infringement notices are issued for certain breaches of the Food Act. These fines serve as a deterrent and encourage compliance with food safety standards.

4.             Prosecution: For serious or repeated breaches, legal action may be taken against the food business. In these circumstances, the business operator or individuals being charged will receive a complaint and summons to attend Court. Prosecution can result in significant fines and, in extreme cases, imprisonment for individuals responsible for the breach.


Penalties under the Food Act are designed to enforce compliance and protect public health. They vary depending on the severity and nature of the breach.

Types of Penalties

Monetary Fines

Businesses and individuals found in breach of the Food Act can be fined. The amount depends on the severity of the breach and whether it is a repeat offense. These fines can be substantial to serve as a strong deterrent.

License Suspension or Cancellation

For severe breaches, a food business’s license can be suspended or cancelled. This prevents the business from operating until it meets the required food safety standards.

Court-Imposed Penalties

In cases that go to court, additional penalties can be imposed. These may include higher fines and, in extreme cases, imprisonment for individuals responsible for serious breaches that endanger public health.

Public Notification

Severe breaches that pose significant risks to public health may be publicly disclosed to warn consumers and deter non-compliant practices by other businesses.

Factors Influencing Penalties

Penalties will depend on various factors and will vary from case to case. Relevant factors which will have an impact on penalty include:

1.             Severity of the Breach: The seriousness of the non-compliance issue, such as the potential risk to public health and safety, heavily influences the penalty.

2.             History of Compliance: Repeat offenders or businesses with a history of non-compliance may face harsher penalties compared to first-time offenders.

3.             Steps Taken to Rectify the Breach: Efforts by the business to address and rectify the breach promptly can mitigate the severity of the penalty imposed.

Key Takeaways

The Food Act provides a detailed framework for ensuring food safety in Queensland, covering everything from licensing and food safety programs to enforcement actions.

Investigations into breaches are systematic and involve site inspections, sampling, and evidence gathering to ensure thorough and accurate assessments. Both State and Local Governments involved in the enforcement of the Act have access to a variety of enforcement tools including; improvement notices, prohibition orders, and prosecutions. All are available to ensure compliance with food safety standards.

An investigation into potential breaches of the Act can have significant impacts for business and operators, who might face personal consequences as a result of any breach. At Aitken Whyte Lawyers our team of solicitors have the knowledge and the expertise necessary to help you navigate investigations or prosecutions brought under the Food Act.

Contact a member of our team today for a confidential discussion regarding your matter.

Office Location and Contact Details


Aitken Whyte Lawyers Brisbane
2/414 Upper Roma Street
Brisbane QLD 4000

Ph: 07 3229 4459
Fax: +617 3211 9311