Council attacks NSW Government over food inspection responsibilities

Canterbury Bankstown Mayor Khal Asfour

One Of NSW’s largest local government authorities has criticised the state government for its plans to force councils to inspect home-based food businesses.

Changes to the Food Regulation Partnership between local government and the NSW Food Authority (NSWFA) will see councils take on extra responsibility for inspection and enforcement. Currently it is the NSWFA’s duty to register and inspect home based businesses to ensure compliance.

But, in changes announced in May 2017 and to take effect on 1 July 2018, responsibility will pass to local councils. Under the current Food Regulation Partnership, councils are responsible only for registered food-related businesses.

City of Canterbury Bankstown Mayor, Khal Asfour, said the Government had asked for feedback on the changes, but that this was being ignored.

“It’s just another thing the State Government is unloading on councils, without adequate funding or any consideration for its capacity to absorb yet another cost shift from the state. It’s ludicrous,” Mayor Asfour said.

“Canterbury Bankstown has one of the highest number of food businesses in NSW, with about 2,000 registered food-related operations, and we have only seven Environmental Health Officers, who inspect each of them at least once a year.

“The NSWFA are now asking us to add to this number by adding home-based businesses too. We have more than 360,000 residents in our city. I wonder how many of them are home-based bakers or caterers.” He said that currently there are only 17 home-based food businesses registered in Canterbury Bankstown.

“The reason for the low number is the State Government has not engaged adequately with these business owners to make them aware of their responsibility to register. This should not now be left to individual councils.”

The Food Regulation Partnership was introduced in NSW in 2003. The Partnership defines the responsibilities of the NSWFA and NSW’s 128 NSW councils in relation to food safety issues, with more and more authority being devolved to local government over time.

Mayor Asfour said this has gone too far. “The impact of the changes will see his council’s workload increase exponentially, with greatly increased administration costs, an increased number of enquiries, and a greater inspection workload.

“Possible enforcement action under the Environmental Planning and Assessment for home-based food businesses currently registered with the NSWFA, which may not have planning approval with Council. We will also have responsibility for the regulation of internet-based food businesses.

“As always, we’ll just have to pick up the NSW Government’s slack.”

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