Calling all New Zealand food businesses: if you’re still operating under a ‘food safety programme’ (FSP) or a ‘deemed food control plan’, you’ve got until 30 November 2018 to transition to a food control plan (FCP). Tick, tock, tick, tock ...
What’s the Difference?
The distinction between the old and new legislation is relatively straightforward. A food safety programme (FSP) is a risk-based approach to identifying, monitoring and managing the hazards within a food business. If you used to operate under an FSP, it would have been registered before 1 March 2016 under the Food Act 1981.
A food control plan (FCP) is a written document that outlines what steps a business needs to take to keep their food - and therefore their customers - safe. FCPs replace FSPs and are in accordance with the Food Act 2014, which came into effect on 1 March 2016.
Old vs New Food Businesses
Any food businesses that were in operation before 1 March 2016, and were registered under the Food Act 1981 or Food Hygiene Regulations 1974 before 29 February 2016, are required to transition to the new Act before 30 November 2018. Once registered and approved, existing food businesses’ ‘deemed FCPs’ (old-style FSPs) become actual FCPs under the new Act.
Food businesses that started operating from 1 March 2016 automatically fell under the new legislation and don’t require any further action.
Food Act 2014 Options
The Food Act 2014 outlines a range of options depending on what kind of food business you operate. You can choose from joining the national programme, registering a template FCP or created a custom FCP.
National programmes are suitable for medium- to low-risk food businesses. There are three programme levels based on food safety risk. Businesses that qualify don't need to have written procedures, may require less record keeping than FCPs, only need to be registered every two years, and need less-frequent verification than an FCP (ranging from once ever to every two years).
Beware: if your business operates multiple food activities, they could fall under different levels. You can register everything under the one programme if you wish, as long as it's the most high-risk option that applies to you.
Not every food business can qualify for a national programme, though. There are strict criteria for businesses that make their food safe by pasteurising, drying or concentrating, or fermenting or acidifying.
A range of template FCPs is available for businesses that operate similarly or who fall into the same category. These are pre-approved and there’s usually a template that fits most food service and food retail businesses. MPI's new 'simply safe and suitable' template enables businesses to select only parts of the template that apply to them and with multiple language options, the process is even easier.
Because it's already pre-approved by MPI, a templated FCP can save you a lot of time and money. There is a downside though: operating under a template implies that you're committed to doing things the ‘template way'. If you want more customisation, a custom FCP might be more suitable.
Custom FCPs are exactly that: customised especially to your business. A custom FCP can be based on a business’ current deemed FCP but needs to be formally evaluated and approved. Any food business can operate under an FCP, and doing so gives you the flexibility to do things your way as long as you meet the Food Act’s requirements. All custom FCPs must be reviewed and approved before final registration which may cost more than using a template.
Some food-related businesses may be exempt from registering an FCP or joining the national programme, although that doesn’t mean they’re allowed to skimp on food safety. Such businesses include retailers who sell shelf-stable, manufacturer-packaged food; home-based early childhood education providers; and accommodation providers who feed up to 10 guests.
Not sure where you fit? Here’s a handy MPI tool that will help you figure out what registration option would work best for your food business.
The Deadline is Looming
Food businesses have had plenty of time to make the transition - more than three years, in fact. The final deadline - 30 November 2018 - is fast approaching though, which means that all food businesses that have been operating under old legislation much take action immediately in order to remain compliant.
If you still haven’t made the switch, it’s important that you give yourself plenty of time. Registration won’t happen overnight so start planning now to avoid getting stuck without a registered plan.
Evaluate Your Own Business
Not sure where your food business is sitting in terms of food safety management and food control plans? Take Safe Food Pro’s free food safety IQ test to see how you’re tracking.