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Skills and knowledge

The food safety standards require proprietors of food businesses to ensure that food handlers and supervisors of food handlers have the skills and knowledge they need to handle food safely.

This means that food handlers and supervisors must have the ' skills' to do those tasks that are necessary to ensure the safety of the food being handled and ' knowledge' of food safety and hygiene matters. For example, a food handler who is responsible for cooling cooked food must have the knowledge that the food must be cooled within a certain time to ensure it remains safe and the skills to do this (for example, by placing the food in shallow containers for cooling).

However, charities and community organisations are exempt from this requirement if:

  • there is no personal financial gain, that is, all the moneys raised are used for charitable or community purposes; and
  • the food sold is shelf-stable (for example, biscuits, cakes without cream, jams or chutneys); or
  • the food is consumed immediately after thorough cooking (for example, sausages sold straight from the barbecue).

This means that in the above circumstances the event organiser does not need to ensure that each food handler has the skills and knowledge to handle food safely. However, these food handlers must still comply with the health and hygiene requirements of the Food Safety Standards, see Fact Sheet 9 Health and hygiene for food handlers.

If the exemption does not apply, the event organiser should ensure that all food handlers and supervisors have the skills and knowledge they need to handle food safely. The exemption does not apply if the activity involves:

  • selling potentially hazardous foods that have not been cooked, such as salads or cream cakes; or
  • selling potentially hazardous foods that are not served immediately after cooking, such as when food is pre-cooked and then heated for sale.

How to ensure your food handlers and supervisors have the appropriate skills and knowledge

The event organiser should first determine if the food handlers and supervisors already have the skills and knowledge, as some may have previously received food safety training. If training is needed, the event organiser will need to work out the best way of providing this training.

Food handlers and supervisors are not required to attend formal training courses. Food handlers and supervisors can obtain the skills and knowledge they need by:

  • attending ' in-house' training programs
  • reading food safety and hygiene information (such as these fact sheets)
  • following food safety procedures that relate to the activities of the charitable or community organisation; or
  • attending food safety courses.

The event organiser can check whether food handlers and supervisors have the required knowledge and understand their obligations by talking to them or asking questions. Assessing skills is much harder but if, for example, food handlers are seen to do the right thing at all times when preparing food, it is reasonable to assume that they have the necessary skills. Event organisers should consider whether:

  • all food handlers know how the business expects food to be handled
  • food handlers understand their health and hygiene responsibilities (see Fact Sheet 9 Health and hygiene for food handlers)
  • there is someone in the organisation who is responsible for ensuring that food handlers handle food safely
  • the necessary equipment is available so that food handlers can handle food safely, for example handwashing facilities.

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