Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 8 Hansard (9 August) . . Page.. 2649..
MR MOORE (continuing):
are adversely and unjustly affected by an emergency order. Authorised officers are appointed under the Public Health Act 1997 and are professionally recognised environmental health officers.
The bill establishes the power for authorised officers to enter premises operating as a food business or holding documents pertaining to that business. These powers are consistent with the model food provisions, the current Food Act and the Public Health Act 1997. The bill sets out the usual powers of such officers, including to inspect the premises, take samples and examine records. Again, consistent with current legislation, the bill enables an officer to seize things that may be used as evidence for an offence for the purpose of ameliorating a potential public health risk. The bill also establishes the rights of a person from whom the item was seized, including the right to compensation for wrongful seizure.
Whilst creating offences for providing false or misleading information to an authorised officer and hindering or obstructing an authorised officer, all consistent with current legislation, the bill also places obligations on the authorised officer. It requires the officer to cause as little inconvenience and detriment to the food business as possible while exercising his or her duties, and for the government to pay compensation if a person suffers loss or expense because of the inappropriate exercise of that power.
The bill details the process to be followed when taking and analysing food samples. It includes procedures for the payment of the sample and submission of the sample for analysis. It also prescribes the method of analysis to be followed. Consistent with current legislation, authorised officers can issue an improvement notice directing a food business to remedy unclean or insanitary conditions and requiring compliance with the food standards code. The authorised officer may also issue a prohibition order if an improvement order is not complied with or if there is a serious danger to public health. Unlike current legislation, there are provisions for reviewing such orders and for awarding compensation if it is found that there were insufficient grounds for issuing a prohibition order.
The bill requires a food business to be registered with the Department of Health, Housing and Community Care prior to its commencement, similar to the licensing provisions contained within the Food Act. Food businesses requiring registration include, but are not limited to, restaurants, takeaways, butchers, bakeries, service stations, supermarkets, video shops, newsagents, caterers, meals on wheel, market stalls and wholesalers. Certain prescribed businesses will be exempt from registration. In accordance with the national food standards, these businesses will be required to provide the department with a one-off notification of their operational details.
With regulations currently being prepared, it is intended that an exemption from registration will apply to businesses that operate no more than five times a year selling food that is not considered to be potential hazardous and to food vans that are registered in another jurisdiction. Notification, far from being onerous, is considered a proactive public health measure. The purpose of notification is to allow the department to forward important food safety information, including training material, to businesses and community organisation which would not normally be aware of the material.