One of the most frustrating hurdles some New Zealand food businesses have faced since the Food Act 2014 was introduced is understanding where their business fits. We have seen businesses, once under their regional Council, now needing to navigate MPI. Others who were once exempt altogether can find they need to meet new obligations.
Getting this bit wrong can be both time consuming and expensive for your business and, in some cases, can threaten your ability to trade.
There are five different types of registrations. Each of these registrations have different requirements and need a different type of food control plan. It is easiest to think of this as a scale with each category designed to reflect the risk level your food poses to the public. National Programme 1 (ie; sugar products) is at the lowest end of the risk scale while a Custom Food Control Plan (ie; ice-cream for wholesale) is at the highest end of the risk scale.
My business is small – I only have a couple of clients
One question I am often asked is ‘’my business is small, it is just me, what does that mean for me?’
The new scale is risk based rather than based on your business’ size or turnover. This means what matters is the type of food you are making and who you are selling it to. The harsh reality is that the food truck trading at the night markets has the same requirements (and costs) as a 5 star restaurant on the waterfront and the person making icecream at home to sell at the local dairies and superettes has the same expectations as Tip Top.
In order to figure out what category your business falls into there is really only two important big picture questions that need to be answered:
What do I make?
Who do I sell it to?
Every business is unique!
Every day I have the pleasure of talking to businesses that find themselves in the ‘grey areas’, those spaces usually found in between the different types of registrations. New Zealanders are world famous for our ingenuity and creativity, traits not lost in the food sector. Our food business owners are brilliant at finding ‘the thing’ that no one else is doing quite the same. Being such a small country finding ones ‘point of difference’ can be vital for success.
However, herein lies a problem. The legislation is new, case studies are still being developed and each authority have their own interpretation of what it all means. I have outlined a few of the questions that come up.
What if I fit into more than one category?
This comes up often. Businesses like to diversify. A business that has a café may choose to also make one of their products for wholesale distribution. A manufacturer may process different products that fall under different national programmes.
According to MPI, when a business falls into multiple categories they should be registered under and meet the requirements of the highest risk based level. This seems simple enough. A national programme 2 also covers the national programme 1, a national programme 3 also covers 1 and 2, a template food control plan covers all the national programmes and so on.
However, often this is not how it is applied. Depending on which region you are from and what categories you apply to you may need to have multiple registrations and, in some cases, multiple verifications. Depending on the size of your business a custom food control plan may be something that needs to be considered.
What do I do if I have more than one site?
If your food business has multiple sites you have a few different options available depending on the answers to the following questions:
Do all of my sites make/sell the same thing?
Do all of my sites operate the same way?
Is each site its own business entity or all under a single business?
Are all of my sites located in just one region or are they spread out around New Zealand?
Businesses that have multiple sites within one region may be able to register them altogether under a multi-site registration with their local Council. In contrast, if the sites are spread out across the country you may choose to bring them all under a custom food control plan with MPI or, depending on what you do, individual registrations in each relevant region may be best.
I do it for a charity – am I exempt?
There are instances where businesses are considered such low risk that they do not need to register a food control plan or programme. The legislation is pretty black and white on this and states that you are exempt if you are:
Selling food for fundraising less than 20 times a year. Fundraising activities include sausage sizzles, raffles and charity events.
Sharing food with others at sports clubs, social clubs or marae where food is not the purpose of the event. For example, providing nibbles at a bowling club games night or serving food at a tangi.
Home-based childcare providers who prepare food for children in their care.
Small accommodation operators who provide food to less than 10 guests.
Growers selling unprocessed, home-grown fruit and vegetables directly to consumers, such as at farm gates or farmers markets.
People who sell only pre-packaged foods that don't need refrigeration or freezing, like packets of biscuits or cans of food.
Commercial fishing operators providing meals to their crew.
Did you have any questions? Let me know! Pop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org