Introduction to the Food Act 2014

Everyone working in the food industry has a responsibility to make sure that the food we buy is safe and suitable to eat. Find out more about the Food Act 2014 and what it means for you.

Food Act enhances food safety

The Food Act 2014 helps make sure that food sold throughout New Zealand is safe.

A central feature of the Act is a sliding scale where businesses that are higher risk, from a food safety point of view, will operate under more stringent food safety requirements and checks than lower-risk food businesses. This means that a corner dairy operator who reheats meat pies won't be treated in the same way as the meat pie manufacturer.

The Act promotes food safety by focusing on the processes of food production, not the premises where food is made. For example, someone who makes and sells food from a food truck must follow the same rules as someone who makes and sells food at a restaurant.  

In force since March 2016, the Act introduced other changes, including:  

  • the way food recalls are managed
  • changes for food importers
  • penalties and enforcement.

The Act has 2 food safety measures:

  • Food control plans (FCPs): Written plans for managing food safety on a day-to-day basis. These are used by higher-risk businesses.
  • National programmes: A set of food safety rules for medium and low-risk businesses. If you're under a national programme, you don't need a written plan (or develop written procedures), but must register, meet food safety standards, keep some records, and get checked.

Help available to find out where you fit

New Zealand Food Safety has developed a tool – 'My food rules' – to help you work out the food safety rules that apply to your business or food activity. By answering a series of questions, you can find out if you need to register your business, who with (and under which legislation), and how to do it.

After you complete the tool

The answers you give in the tool help determine where your activity or business fits under legislation. It will tell you whether you have to operate under:

Some types of businesses will be able to choose whether they operate under the Animal Products Act or the Food Act.

And some food activities are exempt from having to work under a plan or a programme.

'Safe and suitable food' defined

Under the Food Act 2014, anyone who sells or provides food needs to make sure it is safe and suitable to eat. Safe and suitable food is defined in the Act. In summary, it means that:

  • 'safe food' won't make people sick
  • 'suitable food' meets compositional, labelling and identification requirements and is in the right condition for its intended use.

Find out more – refer to schedule 12 of the Food Act – NZ Legislation

Safe and suitable food videos

Watch MPI's videos on YouTube that explain what safe and suitable food means under the Food Act.

A few businesses may have to contact us for advice after completing the tool. You can email

Food Act case studies

If you are still unsure about where you fit, our case studies might help you – these show how the Food Act applies to different businesses and sectors.

Other law changes

The new Act introduces other changes. They include:

  • the way food recalls are managed
  • changes for food importers
  • penalties and enforcement.

Food recall changes

The Food Act 2014 gives the chief executive of MPI the power to direct a food recall if needed. Previously a recall under the Food Act 1981 could only be directed by the Minister for Food Safety.

There are no other changes to how businesses should manage food recalls, and they should continue to plan for food recalls as they have always done.

Changes for food importers

On 1 March 2016, laws were introduced for food importers. They must:

  • either register with MPI as a food importer, or use a registered food importer to import on their behalf.
  • start paying a fee to register.
  • renew their registration each year.
  • have their details published on a public register.

What you need to know before importing food into New Zealand [PDF, 341 KB]

Getting clearance for your food - how to import food into New Zealand [PDF, 394 KB]

Enforcement of the Food Act 2014

The Act includes a better food safety compliance system than the Food Act 1981. Minor and technical offences are dealt with faster and more effectively, and penalties for the worst offences were strengthened.

Find out about enforcement of the Food Act

Find out more

Food Act 2014 – NZ Legislation website

Refer to food sector information for existing businesses

Contact us or subscribe

If you have questions about the Food Act 2014, email

Last reviewed: