All food businesses must be verified (audited) to check compliance with the act. The operator of a new food business that is subject to a template Food Control Plan or National Programme must ensure that the plan and the food business are verified within six weeks of registration.
After the initial verification, further verifications are required to be done within the following timeframes:
- Template Food Control Plans: at least once a year as long as the results of previous verifications are of an acceptable standard.
- National Programmes
- Level 3 (higher risk): verification will be required at least once every two years as long as the results of previous verifications are of an acceptable standard.
- Level 2 (medium risk): verification will be required at least once every three years as long the results of previous verifications are of an acceptable standard and no compliance matters exist against the business.
- Level 1 (lower risk): no subsequent verifications are required unless the initial verification resulted in an unacceptable outcome, or compliance matters exist.
We are a recognised agency under the Food Act to verify Template Food Control Plans and some National Programmes. If you register a National Programme, you have the option to use a third-party auditor. See the MPI's Recognised Agencies or Persons list.
Period of Agreement
Subject to the other provisions of these terms, our obligations to each other start on the start date and end on the termination date set out in this agreement, except where those obligations are expressly stated to survive termination.
Conflicts of Interest
If any staff from the Council has been involved in the design of your food premises or procedures, they cannot act as your verifier. We aim to undertake the agreed services in an independent and impartial manner at all times. The Council has been approved by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) as a recognised verifier under the Food Act 2014.
Nature of the Services
We will verify your food safety practices as required during the term of this agreement and (where appropriate) report your compliance with the programme and with the relevant provisions of the Food Act 2014 to MPI.
We will obtain such evidence as we consider sufficient to enable us to draw reasonable conclusions as to whether or not you are complying with the programme and with the relevant provisions of the Act. The nature and extent of our procedures will vary according to our assessment of your systems, premises and practices, and, where we wish to place reliance on it, your internal control framework.
We will report in writing any matters we consider important and requiring attention.
If we believe there are potential food safety or suitability issues e.g. product recall, complaints received, on direction from MPI or other registration authority, we may carry out an unscheduled verification of your business. Additional fees may be incurred in these circumstances.
Purpose of the Services
Our services are designed to monitor compliance with the risk based measure and with the relevant sections of the Food Act 2014. If any deficiencies in internal controls and practices, not strictly relevant to the verification, come to our attention, we will advise you of these, but we only aim to identify deficiencies within the scope of the verification.
Any other services we may provide from time to time at your request are distinct from our function as verifiers and may be refused if this would generate a conflict of interest with regards to your verification.
Our agreeing to provide the services does not constitute a permit, authorisation, or other permission under any Act, Regulation, or Bylaw. Our verification does not remove your liability for the consequences of failure to comply with any Act, Regulation, Bylaw, or other requirement.
Standard of Service
When we provide services to you, we will use our best endeavours to:
- provide the services with care and skill
- ensure your verifier is knowledgeable and competent to verify your specific food business operations. This may include engaging a technical expert to assist us in the verification of your food business
- provide the services within a reasonable time or within any agreed time limit
- provide a report within 10 working days of completing the verification.
Complaints and disputes
If you have a complaint in relation to our services, or the person conducting them, or you dispute any recommendation or corrective action put forward by your verifier, or you would like to comment on the service you received, please contact the Regulatory Services Manager. We document all complaints and disputes in an attempt to continually improve our service under our Quality Management System. All complaints or disputes are confidential.
All communications between us (the agency) and you (the customer) are treated with strict confidentiality. All electronic records maintained by us are only accessible by approved staff. You may request a copy of any correspondence on your customer file at any time, e.g. a past verification report. A Food Safety Officer or MPI representative may request verification information from us or you. We will notify you if any such person requests such information from us about your food business.
Any corrective actions or non-compliances identified during the verification process of your business will be notified to MPI.
Your General Responsibilities
Within 14 days you must advise us of a change of verifier.
To enable us to properly carry out our statutory responsibilities as a recognised verifier, you must maintain records which comply with the requirements of the Template Food Control Plan or National Programme (level 1, 2 or 3 as applicable) and which contain sufficient detail to enable us to ensure that:
- The food preparation tasks identified in your program are being properly carried out by appropriate staff who have been suitably trained and instructed
- Any restrictions or conditions placed on registration are being complied with
- You notify us of any further information, including any post verification events, which may have a bearing on our verification responsibilities. This must include changes to the scope of your operation or significant changes
- All information you give us needs to be correct and complete
Verification fees are prescribed within STDC fees and charges, these are subject to annual review and are publicly notified. We will provide you with an invoice that must be paid within 30 days.
Our Right to Suspend or Restrict Any Service
If your registration is revoked, surrendered or substituted, or if you do not pay our charges or meet any other responsibilities you have to us, we may suspend or restrict the services at any time. Such activities will be reported to MPI.
Our Right to Stop Providing the Service
If your registration is revoked, surrendered or substituted, or if you do not pay our charges or meet any other responsibilities you have, we may stop providing any of our services to you. This right is additional to any other right or remedy we may have against you under the Food Act 2014. Otherwise, where we have agreed to provide a service for a minimum period, we will continue providing it until the end of that period, and we will notify you with 14 days before we stop providing the service.
Sending Invoices and Notices
We will send invoices and other notices to the last address you have given us or by email as indicated. We can assume any invoice or notice we send by post has been delivered 5 days after we post it. Please tell us if you change your address.
Verification agreement records
All verification agreements will be kept on our records for a minimum of 4 years in relation to our record keeping requirements under the Food Act 2014. Verification reports are retained indefinitely.
Changing These Terms
Any changes to the terms of this agreement must be in writing and signed by us.
The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) have identified five verification criteria for the purpose of checking your level of compliance with good safety practices and keeping records - as required with a food control plan or a national programme.
These major criteria include:
Confidence in management
Includes registration, scope of operations, management of the plan and corrective actions.
Food safety behaviour
Includes staff training, personal hygiene, knowledge of products, food standards code compliance.
How food is managed, temperatures, hazard control, suppliers and receiving goods.
Includes cleaning, storage, pest control, maintenance and premises design.
Includes improvements and previous issues as well as how corrective actions and complaints have been managed
Within each of these criteria there are several verification topics some of which are mandatory for verifiers to review. Initial verifications cover all audit topics with subsequent verifications covering the mandatory and food safety audit topics identified by MPI.
Verification topics not covered during a verification are generally reviewed in following verifications. We will need to verify enough topics to be certain you understand how to manage your food safely.
The verification process assigns outcomes to each of the criteria relating to the business. In order these are:
Fully meets the requirements of the legislation or relevant standard.
Adequately meets the requirements, but areas for improvement will likely be noted to ensure systems are improved.
Applicable requirements are not being met, but are not likely to affect food safety unless they deteriorate. Corrective actions or recommendations may be issued.
Poses a potential food safety risk and can be referenced to an offence. Corrective actions will be issued.
Poses an immediate public health risk that likely triggers enforcement.
Verifications have only two outcomes; acceptable or unacceptable.
If your verification is acceptable then we are happy with the level of compliance. If it is unacceptable then we will likely issue corrective actions that require you to take relevant action to remedy the problem. An unacceptable outcome may be issued in several instances including: any instances of non-compliance or critical non-compliance, or a significant number of non-conformances.
There are several things you can do to prepare for your verification.
- Ensure your food control plan or relevant documentation is available and on site.
- Ensure you have adequate staff on to cover while the verification takes place.
- Ensure staff are well trained, familiar with the plan and understand the requirements.
- Records are organised and legible.
- If your own templates are being used then ensure they are logical and cover the required information.
- If electronic records are used then ensure they are accessible and logical.
- Set aside a suitable amount of time for the verification. In general we require at least two hours but it can take more time for some businesses.