Food Business Inspections & Common Compliance Issues


Routine food business inspections and complaints-based inspections are performed by Public Health Officers from the Health Protection Service. Public Health Officers may inspect a food business premises at any reasonable time without notice. The occupier of a food business is entitled to ask any inspecting Public Health Officer to produce their identity card.

During an inspection, a Public Health Officer will assess the food business against criteria outlined in the Food Business Inspection Manual below. These criteria are consistent with the food safety and hygiene requirements in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code and the Food Act 2001.

As part of the inspection, a Public Health Officer may:

  • ask questions
  • request reasonable assistance e.g. to access certain areas
  • request and copy documents
  • examine anything in or on the premises e.g. food, equipment, surfaces
  • take photographs, videos and/or samples
  • conduct tests
  • if necessary, seize items such as food or equipment.

The food business proprietor or any other staff member may accompany the Public Health Officer during their inspection. However, the Public Health Officer must not be obstructed in carrying out their inspection. It is an offence to interfere with a lawful inspection.

At the end of the inspection, a signed copy of the inspection report is emailed to the food business.

If food safety breaches are identified during the inspection, the business may be issued an improvement notice requiring the breaches to be fixed within a certain time. If critical food safety breaches are found, the business may be issued a Prohibition Order and closed until it is deemed safe. Not complying with an improvement notice may also lead to a Prohibition Order being issued and the business closed.

Food Business Inspection Manual

The Food Business Inspection Manual has been developed to assist Public Health Officers in delivering a consistent and transparent approach to food business inspections. The items discussed in the Manual follow the order of a routine food business inspection.

The Manual contains 56 questions which correspond with food safety requirements both nationally and in the ACT. Each question is accompanied by guidance information on the relevant legislation and examples of common non-compliances.

Food Business Inspection Manual

Food Business Self Assessment Application

The Food Business Self Assessment Tool and Application has been developed to assist food businesses to achieve compliance with food safety requirements in the ACT. The self assessment application seeks to assist and support food businesses by enabling businesses to undertake an assessment of their current food safety practices and identify potential areas for improvement. The application provides detailed information about common food safety and regulatory issues, as well as details about food business inspections.

The self assessment application is available for use on compatible electronic handheld devices and can be found on the Access Canberra website.

A PDF version of the self assessment tool is also available below.

Common Compliance Issues

The information below outlines food safety requirements that are most commonly found to have been breached during inspections. Failure to meet any of these food safety requirements is considered a critical breach. Simple advice to help avoid such breaches of the food safety laws is set out in the Food Safety is Your Business guide on the Food Safety Resources for Businesses page.

Handwashing facilities

All food businesses must provide handwashing facilities that can be easily accessed by all food handlers. Handwashing facilities must:

  • enable and encourage use by food handlers
  • be located within areas where food handlers work
  • be provided separately for any toilets and be immediately adjacent to the toilets
  • have warm running water, liquid soap and single use paper towel
  • be kept free of any obstruction such as equipment and food at all times
  • only be used for handwashing - the facilities must not be used for other purposes such as food preparation or to clean equipment.

General Cleaning

To minimise the risk of food becoming contaminated and unsafe, food business premises must be kept clean. To ensure clean premises, it is best to have a written cleaning schedule that includes the following details:

  • who will be doing the cleaning?
  • how will cleaning tasks be done (e.g. is cleaning equipment or a specific chemical needed)?
  • what/where needs cleaning (e.g. utensils, floors, benches, behind equipment, inside fridges – list hard to reach areas so they are not forgotten)?
  • when should cleaning be done (some areas will need to be cleaned daily, others may require less frequent cleaning)?

Temperature Control

Food businesses must keep potentially hazardous foods at an appropriate temperature. When stored or displayed for sale, cold food must be kept at 5°C or less and hot food must be kept at 60°C or more.

Temperature Monitoring

Each food business must have a digital probe thermometer accurate to ±1°C to allow food temperatures to be monitored. To demonstrate that appropriate temperature controls are in place, a food business must keep records of:

  • the temperature history of potentially hazardous foods
  • the time history of potentially hazardous foods – that is, the time the food has spent in the temperature danger zone (i.e. between 5°C and 60°C). Transportation, delivery, preparation, cooling and display times must be added to get the total time.

If a food business cannot demonstrate appropriate temperature control of potentially hazardous foods it will be deemed non-compliant.

Pest Control

Food businesses must take all practical measures to:

  • prevent pests entering and sheltering in food premises and food transport vehicles
  • eradicate pests on the premises and in food transport vehicles.

Measures to prevent and eradicate pests may include:

  • installing screens on doors and openings
  • installing self-closing doors, double doors or air-curtains at door entries
  • ensuring there are no holes/gaps in ceilings, walls and floors
  • hiring a professional pest controller
  • using appropriate baits and traps to kill or remove pests (care must be taken to ensure any chemicals used do not contaminate food)
  • ensuring premises and food vehicles are clean
  • not storing food on the floor where it may shelter pests and become contaminated
  • ensuring there is no unnecessary equipment stored at the food premises.