Local government entities (LG entities) are responsible for regulating food businesses in their local area. They ensure food businesses comply with the Food Act 2008 and the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code through a range of compliance activities such as food business inspections and enforcement actions. When food businesses are effectively regulated, the public can be more confident that the food they consume is safe.
This audit report focusses on the regulation of consumer food safety at 2 LG entities with a large number of food businesses such as restaurants, cafes and bars in their area. We found many inspections were overdue, recordkeeping was poor, and follow-up and enforcement was not always completed or consistent. These weaknesses increase the risk that unsafe food practices are not rectified, and the public consumes hazardous food.
The findings in the report are not about encouraging more regulation of businesses by LG entities, as this can lead to unnecessary burden on food businesses. Rather, the findings highlight the importance of a fair and equitable regulatory framework which focusses on the areas of highest risk to consumer safety. I am pleased that both LG entities generally agreed with the findings, and have advised that they are in the process of completing overdue inspections and improving their inspection and enforcement practices, and reporting.
Educating food businesses on safe food handling practices is an important part of the regulatory regime, and it was also pleasing to see examples of LG entities providing support to food businesses where there is a lack of knowledge, or where there is repeated non-compliance. However, it is also up to food businesses to make sure their staff understand and implement safe food handling practices. Ultimately, it makes good business sense to maintain clean premises and comply with food safety standards to avoid any reputational damage from serving food that makes people ill.
In the coming months I plan to report on the effectiveness of the Department of Health’s (the Department) framework for monitoring consumer food safety. The Department was in the original scope of the audit, but my Office’s work was put on hold as the Department was a frontline agency in the COVID-19 pandemic response. I’m looking forward to tabling this report as it will provide greater context and transparency as to how food safety is regulated in Western Australia.
I trust the findings in the report will help all LG entities with their compliance activities as food businesses continue to reopen in full, as a result of the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.