Businesses that require 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
- changing 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 businesses
- preparing and selling food from a motor vehicle
- ice cream van
- pie van (smoko truck)
- mobile food trailers
- domestic water carriers
- unpackaged food from a vending machine.
Please note: If you are wishing to operate a mobile food van in a local government controlled area, a commercial approval is required. Contact Council on 13 48 10 for more information.
Businesses that do not require a food licence
Even though a licence may not be required, these businesses still have a responsibility for ensuring the food they sell is safe and suitable, and that they comply with the Food Safety Standards. This includes the design, construction and fit-out of the food premises.
Businesses not requiring a licence from Council 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
- sale of whole fruit or vegetables
- sale of drinks, other than fruit and vegetable juice processed at the place of sale, i.e. tea, coffee, soft drinks, alcoholic drinks
- 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, e.g. sausage sizzle
- provision of meals by a non-profit organisation that are prepared 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.
Types of food business licences
Applications must be submitted 30 days prior to the anticipated operation date to enable Council to assess the application.
- Application for commercial kitchen, mobile food van and licensable non-profit organisations
- Application for domestic kitchen licence
- Application for a temporary food stall licence
- Non-profit organisation nomination for temporary food stall form
- Application for a food safety program accreditation
Fees and charges are listed in the Regulatory Services Fees and Charges Schedule.
Commercial kitchens include businesses with:
- more than one food preparation area such as a supermarket
- with one food preparation area such as a restaurant or childcare centre
- other types of businesses such as accommodation providers or food vehicles.
Non-profit organisations may also need to apply for a commercial kitchen licence.
Food vehicles that prepare and sell food within their vehicles are subject to the same requirements as commercial food premises. Food vehicles that only sell pre-packaged food items are exempt from licensing requirements. Refer to the Food Vehicle Guideline for further information on the fit-out of your food vehicle.
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 only allows the use of a domestic kitchen for commercial (for profit) food handling in the following situations:
- Bed and breakfast 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 Townsville 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 and 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 both your domestic kitchen and your stall (if you intend to sell at markets).
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 Temporary Food Stall Guide .
Applications can be granted for individual events or for 12 months.
If you are intending to conduct a temporary food stall, you will be required to complete an Application for Temporary Food Stall form and return the completed application with the appropriate fee to Council.
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.
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 your non-profit organisation is preparing meals 12 or more times a year, please contact Council's Environmental Health Team on 13 48 10 to determine which licence fee is applicable.
When is a non-profit exempt from licensing?
A licence is not required if you are not preparing a meal as described in the definition of “meal” in the Food Act 2006.
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 Non-profit organisation for temporary food stall nomination form.
Council regulates outdoor dining to ensure that activities are carried out in a safe manner for diners, pedestrians and road users. Before a food 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 SC220.127.116.11 Outdoor dining design in Council’s planning scheme policies.
More information is available on the Planning Approval page.
Starting, buying or making changes to a food business
Starting a new food business
Determine if your food business requires licensing. Review the information on this page under Licensing requirements and Types of food business licences. If you have questions, contact the Environmental Health and Regulatory Services Team on 13 48 10.
Council’s ePlanning can help you work out if your proposed business location is suitable for this type of business under the Townsville City Plan 2014.
Other government agencies that you may require approval from include:
- Liquor Licensing Division of the Queensland government’s Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation.
- Queensland Health who enforces legislation restricting smoking - 13 QGOV (13 7468).
Complete the relevant application form and submit to Council with the relevant fee.
Food premises must be constructed in accordance with Food Safety Standard 3.2.3. Refer to Council's Food premises design, construction and fit-out guidelines for further guidance.
Once your food licence application has been submitted to Council with the relevant fee, it will be assessed by an Environmental Health Officer (EHO).
If floor plans are approved, you will receive a conditional approval letter for the construction of your food premises.
Time frames for assessment may vary – please allow up to 30 days for a full assessment. Further time will be required if the application does not include all the required information.
When you are close to completing the construction of your food premises, contact Council to arrange for an EHO to do a final inspection.
At your final inspection, the EHO will:
- approve your food licence or
- provide details and timeframes for any outstanding construction requirements.
If there are outstanding construction requirements, Council may grant a temporary licence (known as a provisional licence) to allow you to operate while completing these works.
You must not begin operating until a food licence has been approved by the EHO (including a provisional licence). A copy of your food licence will be mailed to you separately.
Taking over or transferring an existing licensed food business
If you are deciding on whether to purchase a food business, you can ascertain the current level of compliance with the Food Safety Standards by applying for a Certificate of Compliance. This process requires the permission of the current licence holder.
If you are planning on buying a food business, you need to ensure the following are completed by the point of sale:
- As a new operator, you must complete the relevant food licence application form and submit to Council.
- If there is an Outdoor Dining Approval (footpath dining), you will need to apply for a new Outdoor Dining Approval.
- Contact Council’s Planning Services Team about trade waste approvals.
If you intend to refurbish the existing premises, you may also require fit-out approval with Council.
Renovating or making changes to an existing licensed food premises
If you intend to renovate or refurbish an existing premises, you may be required to apply for a fit-out approval with Council. Complete the Application to Amend a Current Food Licence and submit with the relevant fee to Council.
Refer to the Food premises design, construction and fit-out guidelines for further information guidelines on the fit-out of your food premises.
Food Safety Program (FSP)
Businesses requiring a FSP
Food businesses are required to develop and implement a food safety program (FSP) if one of the following criteria are met:
- It involves off-site catering, as defined in section 17 of the Food Act 2006.
- The primary activity is on-site catering, at the premises stated on the food licence, as defined in section 18 of the Food Act 2006.
- The primary activity is on-site catering at part of the premises stated on the licence where they are serving more than 199 people on more than 11 occasions per year (e.g. a function room used for on-site catering and situated on the premises of a hotel).
- The food business processes or serves potentially hazardous food for six or more vulnerable persons. This includes:
- private hospital facilities including acute care, psychiatric, hospice, chemotherapy and renal dialysis facilities
- age care facilities including nursing homes, respite care, same-day aged care and low care aged care facilities
- child care facilities including long day care, occasional day care and employer-sponsored child care (does not include family day care). This excludes the serving of meals provided by parents/carers or heating of bottles.
Off-site catering means serving potentially hazardous food at a place other than the principal place of business. It does not include merely delivering food (i.e. pizza delivery or delivering a platter of sandwiches).
On-site catering means preparing and serving potentially hazardous food, to all consumers of the food at the premises from which the business is carried on, under an agreement of which the food is of a predetermined type, persons, time and cost. Examples include dedicated wedding reception venues, function halls or large hotels whose primary food business is on-site catering.
Other food businesses that are not required to have a FSP under legislation may apply for accreditation of their FSP if they wish to. If they choose to have an accredited FSP with Council, they must have the program regularly audited by an approved auditor and must comply with the FSP.
For further information regarding FSPs, visit Queensland Health.
What must a FSP contain?
The Food Act 2006 states that a program must:
- identify food safety hazards that are likely to occur in food handling operations of the food business
- identify where each identified hazard can be controlled and the means of control
- undertake monitoring of the means of control
- provide for the appropriate corrective action when the identified hazard is not under control
- carry out regular reviews of the program
- keep appropriate records for the food business, including any action taken to ensure the business carries on in compliance with the program.
What are the benefits of a FSP?
A FSP is a proven system for managing food safely. It is a documented plan for making sure the food you sell is safe. An appropriate and well implemented FSP can also help a food business demonstrate due diligence in producing and selling safe and suitable food.
How do I develop a FSP?
There are various FSP templates available to help you develop your program that is tailored to your food business. FSPs do not have to be developed by external consultants or contractors. Visit Queensland Health for further information.
How do I get my FSP accredited?
Once you have completed your program, your FSP will need to be assessed by Council to ensure it meets the requirements under the Food Act 2006. This is a one-off process called accreditation. Re-accreditation is only required if major changes are made to the FSP.
To get your FSP accredited, submit your Application for Food Safety Program Accreditation along with the copy of the program, written advice from an approved auditor and the relevant fee to Council. A list of approved food auditors are available from the Queensland Health website.
Once all application requirements are met, your application will be assessed by Council within 30 days and you will receive a written response.
What happens after my FSP is accredited?
You must have your first compliance audit conducted by an approved auditor within six months of accreditation. You must then continue to have audits undertaken by an approved auditor at a frequency specified by Council on initial accreditation.
A list of approved food auditors is available from the Queensland Health website.
Frequently asked food business questions
Can I operate a food business from home in a domestic kitchen?
To operate a commercial business from a residential property, you may require town planning approval from Council.
A food licence will be required to operate. The Domestic Kitchen Guidelines have more information about requirements.
The manufacture of food such as decorative wedding and birthday cakes in domestic kitchens for commercial sale or profit will not be approved by council.
Where food is intended to be given away to a non-profit organisation, the manufacture of food at that person’s home is exempt from compliance with the Food Act 2006, e.g. baking a cake at home to give to a junior football club committee for sale by the committee at a fundraising event. The person’s home is not subject to any structural, licensing, inspection, enforcement, penalty or compliance provisions.
The non-profit organisation that receives food made at home must check that the food supplied is received safely, under temperature control and the food is protected from contamination.
Are tea towels allowed to be used in a food business?
The Food Safety Standards do not specifically prohibit the use of tea towels. However, food businesses do have an overall legal responsibility to ensure they do not contaminate food.
If a business uses tea towels, they should ensure they are:
- washed and sanitised regularly
- not used as a means to cover and protect food
- not used as a means of washing or drying hands
- not used if wet or visibly soiled or dirty.
How often do food businesses get inspected by Council?
Council officers inspect businesses as often as needed to ensure food handlers are preparing food safely. The number of times a food business is inspected is determined by:
- compliance history, i.e. how well the business has performed on previous inspections and whether any justified complaints have been received
- risk category, i.e. whether the business prepares food for vulnerable people such as immunocompromised, elderly or young, or cater for large numbers of people.
Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) conduct unannounced inspections, meaning the food business is not aware that they will be inspected. This gives the EHO a good indication whether the food business is complying with the Food Safety Standards and the Food Act 2006.
Do food handlers have to wear a hat when handling food?
The Food Safety Standards do not require food handlers to wear a hat when handling food. However, food handlers and businesses do have an overall legal responsibility to ensure they do not contaminate food. Some food businesses may choose to have a policy requiring their workers to wear hats when handling food, particularly those with long hair.
What is a Food Safety Supervisor?
All licensed food businesses are required to nominate a food safety supervisor (FSS). The FSS must have substantial experience in the food industry and have acquired extensive skills and knowledge relating to food safety, particularly in recognising, preventing and alleviating food safety hazards.
Council recommends these units of competency for FSSs:
- SITXFSA001 Use hygienic practices for food safety
- SITXFSA002 Participate in safe food handling practices.
What type of thermometer is a food business required to use?
The Food Safety Standards require food businesses that store, transport, prepare, cook or sell potentially hazardous food to have a thermometer that is readily available and can accurately measure the temperature of potentially hazardous food to +/- 1°C. The Temperature measuring device information sheet has more information.
Equipment that is used to store and display food such as cool rooms, bain-marie units and sandwich display units may have a thermometer as part of the equipment. This thermometer will measure the operational temperature of the unit. While these thermometers are useful, they do not measure the actual temperature of the food and you will still need a separate probe thermometer to check the actual temperature of the food.
Are animals allowed in a food business?
Under the Food Safety Standards, a food business must not permit live animals (except for seafood and other fish or shellfish) in areas in which food is handled or served.
A food business must permit an assistance animal in areas used by customers.
A food business may allow companion dogs in outdoor, footpath or alfresco dining areas.
What does a food business need to be aware of after a disaster?
Power outage or water inundation can have a significant impact on food safety, and have the potential to spread foodborne illness if not managed well. This information sheet provides advice on what to do if your food business has been flooded or lost power.