A recent spike in the number of people selling food on Facebook has been met with a reminder from Ōpōtiki District Council’s Food Act Officer: “food safety laws exist for a reason – it is a risk for both the buyer and the seller.”

The issue is not just a local one and it was highlighted recently on TVNZs Fair Go show.

Ōpōtiki District Council’s Food Act Officer, Dale Ashford-Hill said that food laws are a response to outbreaks and risks and they exist for a reason.

“People have a right to know that the food they are buying is safe to eat. Food-borne illness can make people seriously ill, and the law is there to protect people’s health. It is no use just applying the rules to the big businesses – the bugs and germs don’t discriminate between small and large businesses, so the rules can’t either,” Ms Ashford-Hill said.

While the Food Act 2014 changes a number of things for businesses, fundamentally food regulation is not new and the rules still apply, even if the way people are selling their food (through social media) is new.

“We realise that these people are not a big new companies like MacDonalds or Pizza Hut. But I think when you’re taking money in exchange for food, you have a much higher level of responsibility than you do when you are feeding just your family or friends at home. And that means you need to be doing it properly. If you are working in accordance with the law, and getting checked, it means that you and your customers can be sure you’re doing everything you can to keep food safe and not make people sick,” Ms Ashford-Hill said.

To help businesses meet the law, Ōpōtiki District Council has organised a Food Safety Course in Ōpōtiki. It is a one-day course on 22 November and it is an opportunity for those who are running small new food businesses (including people selling food on social media) to get to grips with personal hygiene, food poisoning and bacteria, temperature controls and food storage, the law and how it applies to them. It is a good opportunity to get new staff in existing businesses trained up as well.

“It is great that all these people are working hard to set up a small business at home and sell a bit of food through the power of social media. But we need to make sure that everyone follows the same food safety rules – please get in touch with the Council so you know the rules and have registered and have a written plan for food safety,” Ms Ashford-Hill said.

Food that is being prepared for fundraising purposes (for charities or clubs etc) still needs to be safe but doesn’t need to register with the council or have a food safety plan as long as it isn’t sold more than 20 times a year.

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