Licensing & Legislation
Are you are starting a new food business or taking over an existing food business? Then you may need a food business licence. To assist you, we offer information for new and existing food licenses, illegal operations and the permits required for footpath and outdoor dining.
Food Safety Legislation
Please follow the links below to the relevant food safety legislation:
Who requires a food licence?
Licensable food businesses include:
1. Businesses manufacturing food
- Making biscuits or cakes for retail sale for profit
- Making food for wholesale, i.e. producing frozen meals in a factory or producing cake mixes
- Changes the condition or nature of food by any process such as milling, peeling, cutting or freezing
- Bottling or canning food
- Packing unpackaged food (other than unprocessed primary produce), i.e. packing bulk coffee for wholesale
- Making ice.
2. Businesses that sell unpackaged food by retail
- Restaurant or delicatessen
- Catering business
- Takeaway food outlets
- Motel providing meals with accommodation
- Unpackaged food from a vending machine
- Child care centres/services
- Private residential facilities
- Bed and breakfasts
3. Mobile Food Business’ that conduct the following activities:
- Preparing and selling food from a motor vehicle,
- Ice cream van,
- Pie van (smoko truck),
- Mobile food trailers,
- Domestic water carriers, and/or
- Unpackaged food from a vending machine.
Please note: If you are wishing to operate from a local government controlled area a commercial approval is required. Contact 13 48 10 for more information.
Who does not require a food licence?
Even though a licence may not be required, these businesses still have a responsibility to ensure the sale of safe and suitable food and an obligation to comply with the Food Safety Standards. This includes the design, construction and fit out of the food premises.
Businesses not requiring licence include:
- Production of primary produce, i.e. abattoir or dairy farm
- The processing or sale of fisheries resources
- Food businesses conducted by the State or a government owned corporation
- Tuck shops operated by a parents and citizens association at a State School
- Handling of food at a person’s home that is intended to be given away to a non-profit organisation for sale by the organisation, e.g. cakes made for fundraising parents and citizens association at a school fete
- Sale of unpackaged snack food that is not potentially hazardous food, i.e. corn chips, potato chips, confectionary, nuts, dried or glazed nuts, biscuits and cakes (however the business where the biscuits and cakes are made needs to be licensed)
- Sale of whole fruit or vegetables
- Sale of drinks, other than fruit or vegetable juice processed at the place of sale, i.e. tea, coffee, soft drinks, alcoholic drinks.
- Sale of ice including flavoured ice
- Provision of meals by a non-profit organisation if the meals consists only of fruit, cereal, toast or similar food or the consumer of the meal helps prepare it
- Sale of unpackaged food, not considered to be a meal, by a non-profit organisation, i.e. BBQ sausage sizzle
- Provision of meals by a non-profit organisation that are pre-pared by an entity other than the organisation and are stored and heated or otherwise prepared by the organisation in accordance with directions of the meal’s manufacturer.
Food vehicles that prepare and sell food within their vehicles are subjected to the same requirements as commercial food premises. Food vehicles that only sell pre-packaged food items are exempted from licensing requirements. Refer to the Food Vehicle Guideline for further information on the fit-out of your food vehicle.
Council regulates outdoor dining to ensure that activities are carried out in a safe manner for diners, pedestrians and road-users. Council is required to monitor the standard of operations in food premises that provide outdoor dining. Compliance with requirements of the Outdoor Dining Policy and associated Guidelines will assist you in providing a safe outdoor dining environment.
Guide to Outdoor Dining in Townsville
Council recognises the importance of the city's vibrant and unique outdoor lifestyle.
To enhance the amenity and vibrancy of Townsville, the council encourages the use of council-controlled outdoor areas by businesses serving food and/or beverages to the public.
Council regulates outdoor dining to ensure that activities are carried out in a safe manner for diners, pedestrians and road-users. Council is required to monitor the standard of operations in food premises that provide outdoor dining. Compliance with requirements of the Outdoor Dining Policy and associated Guidelines will assist you in providing a safe outdoor dining environment. The Outdoor Dining Information sheet contains a summary of the requirements.
Before a business can use the footpath or other council-controlled space for dining, they must obtain a permit from council and comply with council's Outdoor Dining Policy and Outdoor Dining Policy Guidelines and SC126.96.36.199 Outdoor dining design in council’s planning scheme policies.
The principal objectives of this policy are to:
- promote a vibrant street life, which balances the interests and needs of residents, ratepayers and visitors to the city.
- regulate and control footpath activities to achieve fairness and consistency between traders in the use of footpaths.
- minimise risk to patrons of outdoor dining areas
- ensure safe and unobstructed passage for pedestrians
- ensure safe passage and unobstructed vision for drivers of vehicles and cyclists
- limit impact on the residential amenity and the streetscape that characterises the area.
- promote a safe physical and social environment in which the potential for nuisance activities is minimised
Do I need an Outdoor Dining Licence?
YES, if you have a food business that uses council land or footpath for outdoor dining purposes, you will require an Outdoor Dining Licence.
NO, if you have a food business that provides tables and chairs for outdoor dining purposes on private land, i.e. within the boundaries of shopping centres, you will not require an Outdoor Dining Licence.
Applications and Approvals
- Complete the Application for Outdoor Dining Licence and submit to Planning Counter, Ground Floor, 103 Walker Street.
- Pay the appropriate outdoor dining licence fees to council.
If you have questions after reviewing the material, please call council on 13 48 10, or email email@example.com
Domestic Kitchen Licence
Standards apply to all household kitchens used for the preparation of food offered for sale to the public at markets, fetes and other similar events. Townsville City Council has a minimum set of standards of operational and structural requirements that domestic kitchens must meet to ensure the production and sale of safe food.
Anyone who sells food must ensure that it is safe to eat and that the Food Standards Code is applied to the operations and construction of the domestic kitchen business.
What sort of foods can a domestic kitchen be licenced for?
Council allows the use of a domestic kitchen for commercial (for profit) food handling only in the following situations:
- Bed & Breakfast (B&B) or Farm-stay
- Manufacturing low risk foods or snack foods, that are not ready to eat meals, for sale at markets and fetes. You can also sell low risk foods directly from your home (subject to the City Plan’s Home Based Business code). However you cannot sell foods wholesale.
Examples of low risk foods are:
- Cakes without cream or ganache
- Snack foods such as confectionary, biscuits and cookies, nuts and dried fruit
- Jams & pickles
The type of food that you are preparing and the final point of sale will determine whether you are required to have a license for your domestic kitchen as well as your stall if you intend to sell at markets.
Find out more about domestic kitchens below:
Temporary Food Stalls
Temporary food stalls are an important feature at many festivals, fetes and markets. Temporary food stalls can pose a higher risk to consumers than restaurants due to their temporary nature. Therefore it is important to ensure your stall is setup and operating in compliance with the Food Safety Standards. Any person or company who sells unpackaged food by retail at a stall of a temporary nature; examples include BBQ, hot chips or hot dog vendor.
Who requires a Temporary Food Stall Licence?
Any person or company who sells unpackaged food by retail at a stall of a temporary nature; examples include BBQ, hot chips or hot dog vendor.
Who does not require a Temporary Food Stall Licence?
Non-profit organisations have a number of exemptions under the Food Act 2006 which have been provided so they can continue selling food at fundraising events. For further information read below or visit our Non-Profit Organisation site.
Other exemptions from licensing for temporary foods stalls include:
- The sale of unpackaged snack food that is not potentially hazardous including:
- Corn chips or potato chips
- Biscuits or cakes (however the business where the biscuits/cakes are made needs to be licensed)
- Confectionary Nuts
- Dried or glazed fruit
- Sale of whole fruit or vegetables
- Sale of seeds, spices, dried herbs, tea leaves, coffee beans or ground coffee
- Grinding of coffee beans
- Sale of drinks, other than fruit / vegetable juice processed at the place of sale (i.e. tea or coffee, soft drinks, alcoholic drinks)
- Sale of ice including flavoured ice such as snow cones or bags of party ice
- Provision of meals by a non-profit organisation if:
- The meal consists only of fruit, cereal, toast, or similar food, or
- The consumer of the meal helps to prepare it.
- Sale of unpackaged food, not considered to be a meal, by a not-for-profit organisation, e.g. BBQ sausage sizzle
- Provision of a meal prepared by a non-profit organisation as part of an educational or training activity conducted by the organisation involving food preparation, hospitality or catering.
Even though a licence may not be required, you still have a responsibility to ensure the sale of safe and suitable food and an obligation to comply with the Food Safety Standards. This includes the design, construction and fit out of your premises.
Applying for a Temporary Food Stall Licence
If you are intending on conducting a temporary food stall you will be required to complete a Application for Temporary Food Stall Licence and return the completed application with the appropriate fee to council.
The applicant for a licence must be a legal entity (e.g. a person or company). A business name or trading name is not a legal entity and cannot be the licence holder.
Applications can be granted for individual events or for 12 months.
The application must be submitted with copies of the layout of your stall as well as include your Food Safety Supervisor details.
For guidance on how your temporary food stall should be designed and constructed refer to our Temporary Food Stall Guide.
Please ensure your application is submitted at least seven days before the event to allow time process the application.
Non-profit organisations are required to be licensed if they provide meals at a particular place on at least 12 or more days each financial year.
- A restaurant, open daily to the public, operated by a sporting club to raise revenue for the club
- A non-profit organisation preparing and selling meals to homeless persons at a homeless persons hostels
- The preparation of meals by Meals on Wheels
- Mobile food van (providing meals) at a sporting ground.
The definition of “meal” under the Food Act 2006 includes food that:
- Is or is intended to be eaten by a person sitting at a table or fixed structure used as a table with cutlery and
- Is of adequate substance as to be ordinarily accepted as a meal.
If a non-profit organisation is not deemed to be preparing a “meal” outlined above, then it is not considered a licensable food business. This definition exempts sausage sizzles from requiring a licence.
If your non-profit organisation is preparing meals 12 or more times a year, please contact council's Environmental Health Unit on 13 48 10 to determine which licence fee is applicable.
When is a non-profit exempt from licensing?
If meals are being prepared less than 12 times in a financial year, a licence is not required. However, if you intend to operate at an organised event, you will be required to notify council of your intention to operate through submission of the Not-for-profit nomination form for temporary food stalls form (available below).
Illegal Operation of a Food Business
The primary reason for licensing requirements is to ensure that businesses produce safe and suitable food. Unlicensed businesses:
- Have reduced operating costs and therefore create an uneven playing field for businesses that are licensed; and
- Increase the risk of food borne illness if there is improper food handling practices.
If you believe a business is operating without a licence, contact council and advise us with as many details as possible including the trading name, address, types of foods sold and the day or time they were operating.
Council follows up on any unlicensed food businesses by ensuring they apply for appropriate licensing and taking enforcement action where necessary. Penalties for operating a food business are up to $117,800 or two years imprisonment.