Legal and regulatory issues in the online sale of food:

Running a food business is tricky business! Not only do you need to come up with a great recipe and marketing strategy but you need to ensure you are legally compliant. There are a bunch of rules and regulations to comply with and making sure you have covered off on them is a good idea! We regularly help food businesses to ensure they have their business structure right and that they are complying with the never ending regulations. So, what do you need to know?

First, you need to comply with all the laws regarding the sale of food in Australia. That includes food safety standards, labelling, and consumer laws.

Second, make sure you are allowed to run a food business from your premises according to the planning zone with local authority. The last thing you need is to have the local council knocking on your door and issuing you with infringement notices.

And third, you must register your food business and apply for a licence with your local council (determined by where your headquarters/online business is run from). You will need to classify your food business according to the food safety risk of the business, and have a Food Act 1984 registration from the local council before trading. Regulations will differ depending on where you are based but the council will generally require the following information:

Food business classification (classification is determined by what food you are selling and who you are selling to);
What types of food you will be selling;
Who will be receiving your food;
Whether or not your food is pre-packaged;
Who is your nominated food safety supervisor (your food safety supervisor nominated on staff must have proper training and certificates and be appropriately registered); and
Payment of a fee (and payment to renew licence once a year).

There is also legal requirement that all employees of your food business who handle food are trained in food safety.

Further registrations are may be required for the sale of certain food items depending what State you are in. If you are in Victoria and:

  • your business primarily sells meat or seafood then you must register with PrimeSafe.
  • your business primarily sells dairy products then you must be registered with Dairy Food Safety Victoria.


You must protect your food from contamination using packaging that is suitable for food contact (i.e. does not contain chemicals that could leach into the food).
Packaging must be strong enough to remain intact for the journey (whether by post or private transport) and protect the food while it is in transit. You also need to ensure the labelling on your packaging is compliant. You can read more about food labelling here: ‎


How are you going to get your food from A to B? Some foods obviously need to be kept cool, cold or hot while being transported to ensure food is delivered in a way that meets food safety and quality control standards.

If the food needs to be kept cold, FSANZ sets the temperature at 5o C or cooler during transport; or
If the food needs to be kept hot it should be 60o C or hotter for the journey.

For short journeys, insulated containers with ice bricks or heat packs may be used. Insulated containers should be:

Packed with either pre-heated or pre-cooled foods;
In good condition;
Only used for food;
Kept away from hazardous items and substances;
Filled and closed quickly; and
Opened again at the last minute – immediately before delivery to consumer or into adequate temperature-controlled equipment.

Method of transport:

If your food is temperature-sensitive you may be considering delivering the food yourself, or hiring a private courier. Things to consider here are:

Transport cool food in the coolest part of the vehicle, where it is air-conditioned;
Ensure the vehicle is clean;
Plan the journey properly and make sure it is kept as short as possible;
Pack and unpack cold food last so that it can remain temperature-controlled for as much time as possible; and
If you are going to self-deliver, you will need a permit for your vehicle, and you may need a permit for parking/loading with your local council.

Terms and Conditions:

What do you have on your website? Do customers know where they stand if they want to return the product? Are your terms compliant with the Australian Consumer Law? Thinking about these issues as well as limiting your liability to the costs of the product is generally a good idea.

If you have any concerns or would like clarification as to what regulations apply to your particular online food business, book a free 15 minute chat with us.

This is general advice only. Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation. 

Published Apr 19, 2018

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