Victorian food regulators' Memorandum of Understanding


Dairy Food Safety Victoria


Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions


Department of Health and Human Services


Municipal Association of Victoria



1. Introduction

  • 1.1 Victoria's food safety regulation occurs in the context of a binational food regulatory system. Under the Food Regulation Agreement between the Commonwealth and the Australian states and territories, Victoria has an obligation to implement national food safety standards issued by Food Standards Australia New Zealand.
  • 1.2 The Food Act 1984 is the means by which the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code) is applied in Victoria to all food businesses. Industry specific legislation regulates primary production and processing in the dairy (Dairy Act 2000), seafood (Seafood Safety Act 2003), meat and poultry (Meat Industry Act 1993) industries.
  • 1.3 The Victorian legislative framework aims to ensure that food for sale is both safe and suitable for human consumption.
  • 1.4 This Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aims to facilitate a 'joined up', effective and efficient Victorian food regulatory system that protects public health and safety, and facilitates market access for Victorian commodities.
  • 1.5 The parties to this MoU agree to collaborate to ensure the effective management of food safety risks by food businesses using relevant legislation, standards, licensing or registration, compliance monitoring and enforcement.
  • 1.6 This MoU is not legally binding. It describes the commitment of each of the parties to administer food regulation in Victoria in accordance with the agreed schedules attached.

2. Objectives

2.1 The specific objectives of the MoU are to:

  1. protect public health and safety through the integrated administration of food safety related regulation in Victoria
  2. provide clarity about the roles and responsibilities of each party in Victoria’s food regulatory system, including during food safety incidents
  3. support consistent application of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code)
  4. facilitate clear and accurate communication between regulators.

3. Principles

3.1 The MoU is underpinned by the following guiding principles:

  1. The food regulatory system protects public health and promotes consumer confidence in the food supply.
  2. Food regulators ensure effective administration of Victoria's food regulatory system.
  3. Regulation is the minimum required to achieve desired outcomes.
  4. Issues and disputes between regulators are actively managed to ensure the efficient and effective management of food safety risk.
  5. The food regulatory system is accountable and transparent to regulated businesses and the public.
  6. Administration of Victorian food safety regulation incorporates the objectives and principles of the 2014 Victorian State — Local Government Agreement.

4. Roles of the parties to this MoU

4.1 Dairy Food Safety Victoria

Dairy Food Safety Victoria (DFSV) is established under the Dairy Act 2000 to ensure that standards which safeguard public health are maintained in the Victorian dairy industry.

Its functions include establishing, maintaining and improving food safety standards of dairy food, approving and monitoring food safety programs in dairy businesses, administering a licensing system and, in consultation with DHHS, protecting public health. The Food Act also provides that DFSV can make orders relating to licensed dairy premises and that authorised officers of DFSV can apply provisions of the Food Act.

4.2 Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions

In accordance with the Food Act, the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR) has responsibility to facilitate the exercise of powers and functions of the Secretary in relation to primary food production and related activities. This includes on-farm food safety for eggs and seed sprouts.

As part of its statutory role to promote the objects of the Food Act, DJPR assists DHHS with relevant food safety investigation and incident response associated with primary food production and related activities.

4.3 Department of Health and Human Services

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is responsible for the enforcement and administration of the Food Act 1984 in Victoria directly and through the provision of advice and support to local government.

It also has broad responsibilities for public health under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008. DHHS assesses and investigates potential foodborne disease risks in conjunction with relevant regulators, with a view to managing risk to public health from food.

4.4 Municipal Association of Victoria

Victoria's 79 local governments are represented by the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) in this MoU. While MAV is not a food safety regulator, it works with government agencies to optimise coordination with local government where greater consistency has been identified as being critical to the operation of a well-functioning regulatory system for food safety. MAV will collaborate with local governments as appropriate.

4.5 Local governments

Victoria's 79 local governments are responsible for the registration of food businesses, in accordance with the Food Act. Local governments may also have other regulatory functions and obligations in relation to businesses regulated by other bodies.

These include planning, building, nuisance provisions in accordance with the Public Health and Wellbeing Act, and local by-laws.

4.6 PrimeSafe

PrimeSafe is established under the Meat Industry Act 1993. Under the Meat Industry Act and the Seafood Safety Act 2003, PrimeSafe regulates businesses in the meat, poultry, seafood and pet food industries in Victoria.

These food businesses as defined by legislation are required to be licensed by PrimeSafe and are subject to audits of their food safety program. PrimeSafe's functions include the control and review of standards for meat, poultry and game meat for human consumption.

The Food Act also provides that PrimeSafe can make orders relating to meat processing facilities or seafood businesses and that PrimeSafe authorised officers can apply provisions of the Food Act.

5. Determining the regulator responsible for licensing or registration, compliance monitoring and enforcement

Parties to the MoU will determine the regulator responsible for licensing or registration, compliance monitoring and enforcement by agreement between two or more parties, having reference to the objectives and principles of this MoU.

6. Food safety incident investigation (Schedule 1)

Parties to the MoU will investigate food safety incidents in accordance with Schedule 1.

7. Interpretation and application of the Australian New Zealand Food Standards Code (Schedule 2)

Parties to the MoU will interpret and apply the Australian New Zealand Food Standards Code in accordance with Schedule 2.

8. Complaints about food businesses (Schedule 3)

Parties to the MoU will handle complaints about food businesses and misleading and deceptive conduct in accordance with Schedule 3.

9. Information use and disclosure

The sharing of information between the parties to facilitate cooperation will be subject to the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 and the principal Acts of the regulators.

No information relating to complainants shall be disclosed to third parties unless this is appropriate, and authorised by law. Information relating to complaints may be provided to third parties without consent in accordance with these laws. Ordinarily the consent of the information provider will be sought.

10. Resolution of disagreements

If there is a dispute between parties about this MoU and schedules, those parties will meet and work together expeditiously to ensure the issue is resolved and stakeholders are not adversely affected.

11. Term of the Memorandum of Understanding

The MoU will be subject to an ongoing review for a period of not less than every three years from the date of signing of this document.

12. Variation of the Memorandum of Understanding

The MoU may be amended with the agreement of all parties at any time.

13. Termination of Memorandum of Understanding

  • 13.1 The MoU may be terminated if the parties agree the MoU is no longer required.
  • 13.2 If one or more of the parties ceases to exist or seek to withdraw from the MoU, the intent of the MoU may still be valid for the other parties. In that instance the MoU may be amended to reflect the change in signatories.
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1. Definition of incident

1.1. For the purpose of this schedule a food safety incident is defined as any event related to the supply of food where an actual or suspected threat to the safety of food requires investigation to protect public health, and involves more than one regulator, whether or not there are cases of illness.

2. Foodborne illnesses

2.1. Single incidents of foodborne illness

  1. It is the responsibility of the relevant local government to follow up and investigate single incidents of foodborne illness.
  2. Where, during the course of any such local government investigation, issues identified by a local government officer associated with a business regulated by DFSV, PrimeSafe or DJPR, local government should refer this to the relevant regulator for investigation and oversight of any corrective actions.

2.2. Outbreaks of foodborne illness — general principles

  1. Under the relevant DHHS communicable diseases guidelines, an outbreak is defined as the occurrence of a disease or health event in excess of the expected number of cases for a given time or place. This typically means two or more cases of the same disease within a specified period of time and/or geographical location.
  2. DHHS coordinates the investigation of the possible source of all outbreaks of foodborne illness, regardless of which regulator is responsible for the premises implicated in the outbreak.
  3. Under sections 189 and 190 of the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008, the Chief Health Officer has specific statutory functions with respect to risks to public health, which include outbreaks of foodborne illness. These powers include premises closure, requiring the provision of information and directing the owner of any premises to take any action necessary to reduce the risk to public health.
  4. The Chief Health Officer also has emergency powers which include the power to mandate a food recall under Section 44A(d) of the Food Act 1984.

2.3. Outbreaks associated with local government registered premises

  1. Outbreaks of illness are investigated in accordance with the relevant DHHS communicable disease guidelines, which state that outbreaks confined to a local government area geographically are primarily the responsibility of that local government authority; and that outbreaks where cases are spread beyond local government or regional boundaries will be coordinated by DHHS (Communicable Disease Prevention and Control Unit), who will also provide local governments with clear direction and support.
  2. The DHHS communicable diseases guidelines set out the roles and responsibilities of both local government and the relevant departmental units in the context of an outbreak at a local government-registered food premises.
  3. Where necessary, DHHS may need to call meetings and/or establish an Incident Management Team (IMT), or similar, depending on the nature of the outbreak.

2.4. Outbreaks associated with DFSV or PrimeSafe licensed premises

  1. When a DFSV or PrimeSafe licensed premises is implicated in an outbreak of foodborne illness, DHHS will work with the principal regulator to undertake the investigation in accordance with the IMT principles outlined below.
  2. DHHS leads an outbreak investigation with the view to establishing and controlling the source of illness, and will obtain assistance, support and specialist expertise from the principal regulator as required, throughout the investigation.
  3. DFSV or PrimeSafe will investigate licensed premises to determine if any non-compliance at a premises may pose a public health risk.
  4. The relevant regulator is responsible for enforcement action at the premises to ensure ongoing compliance with the food safety program and relevant food legislation, as well as ensuring that any corrective actions identified by DHHS and/or the relevant regulator are implemented as appropriate or in accordance with any Chief Health Officer requirements.
  5. Where there is a need for DHHS to attend on-site at a DFSV or PrimeSafe licensed premises as part of the investigation into the outbreak, the relevant regulator will also be present in the interests of a transparent and cooperative approach.

2.5. Outbreaks associated with premises regulated by DJPR

  1. When DHHS confirms epidemiological evidence for foodborne illness associated with on-farm activities, DJPR staff will conduct an investigation and risk assessment on the farm, except for dairy farms.
  2. DHHS and DJPR will operate in accordance with their MoU for the joint management of zoonoses and related veterinary public health matters.
  3. DJPR will follow the relevant Manual of Procedure and its relevant Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for disease investigation, where these have been developed, such as the Investigating Salmonellosis in poultry flocks SOP.
  4. DJPR is responsible under the Food Act for taking the necessary action relating to farm businesses for which it is responsible.

2.6. Multi-jurisdictional outbreaks of foodborne illness

  1. Multi-jurisdictional outbreaks of foodborne illness (MJOIs) pertain to outbreaks where there are cases in more than one jurisdiction, an outbreak in one jurisdiction related to a food in another jurisdiction or a point source outbreak with cases from more than one jurisdiction.
  2. MJOIs are led by OzFoodNet under the Guidelines for the Epidemiological Investigation of Multi-Jurisdictional Outbreaks that are Potentially Foodborne, (MJOI Guidelines).
  3. The food safety investigation during an MJOI will be led by the relevant food regulator in accordance with the Bi-National Food Safety Network standard operating procedures, which may involve the triggering of the Food Incident Response Protocol.

3. Referral of matters between regulators

3.1. Parties will work together to facilitate a robust and expedient food safety complaint investigation and incident response. Information will be shared in accordance with law.

3.2. When referring matters, parties will provide as much evidence and information as is relevant and possible to the recipient regulator. This may include written statements obtained from relevant parties including the complainant, receipts, photographs that are in focus and high quality, packaging, labelling, certificates of analysis, officer reports, interviews, specimens including foreign objects and foods. It is important to ensure chain of custody and relevant temperature control is maintained at all times.

4. Complaints about food safety

4.1. Investigation of food complaints

  1. Complaints about food safety are predominantly received from members of the public, although they are also sometimes received from other food companies, and usually pertain to the following areas:
    • microbiological, for example, single incident allegations of food poisoning, mould growth
    • physical, that is, foreign objects in food, for example, insect, plastic, wood, rubber, glass, nail. If the foreign object has the ability to inflict harm and its presence in the food cannot be explained by the method of manufacture, potential deliberate contamination of food should be considered and ruled out in the first instance. In this instance the incident should be referred to DHHS as a matter of urgency.
    • labelling, for example, incorrect date marking, incorrect directions for use, absence of address of supplier, incorrect nutrition information panel.
    • allergens, for example, allergic response to undeclared allergen in packaged food, allergic response to allergen in a meal at a restaurant after ensuring with staff at premises that the meal did not contain said allergen. An allergen is any food allergen recognised and named in the Code Standard 1.2.3.
    • chemical and natural, for example, food smells or tastes tainted, pine mouth.
  2. Food safety complaints will be investigated by the relevant food regulator, depending on the issue, the food and the premises that the complaint relates to.

4.2. Food complaints regarding local government registered premises

  1. Local governments are responsible for investigating complaints about food premises and food manufactured, sold and imported in and by premises registered within their municipality, whether received directly by the local government or referred from another food regulator (Victorian or from another state or territory). Where the local governmen's investigation reveals the (likely) need for a food recall, the local government shall advise DHHS, and obtain guidance as required to oversee the recall, assisting as required by DHHS.
  2. Under the Food Act, DHHS has a specific role to facilitate the Secretary’s exercise of his/her powers and functions as delegated to the Chief Health Officer under the Food Act. One such function is the power to mandate a food recall to prevent the possibility of a serious public health risk. Where a food regulator forms a view that the mandating of a food recall is required, liaison with DHHS needs to occur as soon as possible.

4.3. Investigation outcome feedback

  1. It is the responsibility of the investigating regulator to provide an outcome to the complainant upon the completion of the investigation, as well as any updates during investigation, as required.

5. Incident management team (IMT)

5.1. The purposes of the IMT are as follows:

  1. to coordinate a whole-of-Victorian-Government response to the food safety incident
  2. to clarify and confirm roles and responsibilities of each of the regulators involved in the investigation of the incident
  3. to facilitate an expedited resolution to the incident
  4. to minimise adverse impacts on public health as well as trade and market access where relevant, and
  5. to agree on and develop key communication messages and to ensure appropriate communication with stakeholders, including relevant overseas markets.

5.2. Where a food safety incident involves an outbreak of illness, the Chief Health Officer will lead any meetings and IMT processes in accordance with any relevant DHHS incident response policies, guidelines and standard operating procedures.

5.3. An IMT process may also be established on a case-by-case basis to manage food safety incidents that do not involve food borne illness.

6. Food recalls

6.1. In accordance with the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is responsible for coordinating food recalls at the request of states and territories. The decision as to whether a food recall should occur is typically made in discussion with the relevant food regulatory agency in consultation with the relevant food business.

6.2. The relevant food regulatory agency should notify DHHS immediately if it becomes aware that a food business is commencing recall action to enable DHHS to provide FSANZ with advance notice that a recall is to be initiated.

6.3. Two FSANZ food recall protocols set the roles and responsibilities for all relevant regulators, and food industry, involved in a food recall. These are:

  1. Government Food Recall Protocol — a guide for government authorities on the coordination of food recalls in Australia, and
  2. Food Industry Recall Protocol — information on recalling food in Australia and writing a food recall plan.

6.4. Where a food recall is the appropriate action to protect public health, the Chief Health Officer (as delegated by the Secretary) has emergency powers under Section 44A(d) of the Food Act to mandate the recall through the issuing of an order. Where this occurs, the relevant food regulator will provide support, assistance and information as required by the Chief Health Officer.

7. Deliberate contamination

7.1. The investigation of incidents of deliberate contamination of food comes under the jurisdiction of Victoria Police under the Crimes Act 1958. This is regardless of who may be the potential source of the deliberate contamination. Food regulators provide a support role to the police in such investigations.

7.2. Where a food regulator suspects deliberate contamination of food it may refer the matter to Victoria Police. DHHS can be contacted to provide advice and guidance.

  1. Each regulator will interpret the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code) for application at premises it regulates.
  2. All regulators will endeavour to interpret and apply the Code in a consistent manner.
  3. In providing guidance and advice to local governments about interpretation and application of the Code, DHHS will have regard to any relevant information provided by local governments, DFSV and PrimeSafe about their experience in administering relevant legislation.

1. Complaints to local government

1.1. Local governments may receive complaints on a variety of issues relating to food premises that may require investigation under other regulations, such as planning, building, public health, environment and local laws.

1.2. If, during the course of an investigation, a local government identifies a food safety incident associated with a business that is regulated by Dairy Food Safety Victoria, PrimeSafe or the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, the local government will refer the matter to the relevant regulator.

1.3. Local governments are responsible for the investigation of all notifications of nuisances under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008, regardless of whether the premises is registered with a local government. An outcome of such investigation may include referral to another agency, such as the Environment Protection Authority.

1.4. Local governments have powers to investigate noise complaints under relevant local laws, the Environment Protection Act 1970 or the Public Health and Wellbeing Act, depending on the issue, regardless of whether the business is registered with a local government.

1.5. Local governments are responsible for the investigation of complaints relating to waste under relevant local laws or the Public Health and Wellbeing Act, depending on the issue.

2. Misleading and deceptive conduct

2.1. Parties to this MoU may refer alleged or suspected misleading or deceptive conduct (that is, in relation to advertising, packaging or labelling of food for sale, including instances of food fraud) to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

2.2. In deciding whether to investigate or refer alleged or suspected misleading or deceptive conduct, parties will consider seriousness of the issue and whether the conduct appears to be in breach of Australian Consumer Law.

2.3. This case-by-case consideration allows a decision to be made as to who will undertake the investigation and any relevant enforcement action.

Page last updated: 02 Jun 2020