Food standards in Australia
Keeping food safe and free from contamination is critical to public health. Australia has legislation and regulations to make sure local and imported food is safe to eat.
- develops and manages standards for food, called the Food Standards Code
- regulates labelling that goes on packaged and unpackaged food, including warnings and advisory labels
- manages food recalls.
The Australian Government and state and territory governments enforce the standards, in line with their food legislation.
The Department of Agriculture ensures that imported products meet our strict biosecurity laws and food standards.
In Australia, legislation requires most packaged foods to have a label so that everyone can make informed decisions about what they eat and drink. Labels must include:
- nutrition information – like sugar, salt and saturated fat
- ingredients – listed from highest to lowest weight, and including additives and those that can cause allergies
- use-by date – when the food is likely to go off
- use and storage instructions.
The voluntary Health Star Rating system is a quick and easy way to compare the nutrition in similar foods – the more stars, the healthier the food.
Companies can make nutrition claims (like low fat) or health claims (like good for your bones) on the front of the packaging. While the food must meet certain criteria to back these claims up, it’s still important to read and understand the nutrition information.
The National Measurement Institute administers the laws for selling foods by weights and measures. It works with the Australian food sector to test, analyse and measure foods to ensure accurate labelling and food safety.
Storing, handling and serving food safely
Australia has a reliable, safe and nutritious food supply. But food poisoning still happens.
There are more than 5 million cases of food poisoning in Australia each year, both through businesses and at home. Storing, handling and serving food safely can prevent this.
Food safety is everyone’s responsibility. By law, businesses and not-for-profit organisations must follow food standards to keep people safe from food-related illness. But it’s important for individuals too, as many cases of food poisoning happen at home.
Food safety includes:
To protect public health and safety, businesses must immediately remove from distribution, sale and consumption any food found to be unsafe.
This could be for many reasons, including contamination, incorrect labelling or a packaging fault.
Food safety in emergencies
Emergencies, such as flood and fire, can contaminate food and water supplies or block access to shops.
The Australian Government and state and territory governments work to restore access to food as quickly as possible following an emergency.
But there are things you can do to make sure you have safe food and water at home before, during and after emergencies.
Read about what you can do in an emergency at:
- Food Standards Australia New Zealand
- Australian Capital Territory Health
- New South Wales Food Authority
- Northern Territory Health
- Queensland Health
- South Australian Health
- Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services
- Victorian Department of Health and Human Services
- Western Australian Health
- Food Safety Information Council.