Thinking of starting a new food business?

Starting a new food business can be exciting but there are rules to follow. These steps will help ensure you are making and selling food in a safe and suitable way.

Step 1: Find out the rules

You need to follow the rules for your type of food business. 

If you grow, manufacture, import, store, transport, or sell food or beverage products, you need to meet certain food safety requirements. The way you trade in food determines the legislation you need to follow – you might need to operate under the Food Act, Wine Act, Animal Products Act, or Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Acts.

The 'My food rules' tool will help you find which Act you need to operate under, and the plan or programme you need to use.


Video: Find out the rules (2:35)


[Video begins. Animations play during the video. The animations demonstrate what the narrator is talking about, giving visual examples of the scenarios and information.]

Narrator: "Everyone has the right to know that the food they’re buying won’t make them sick and that it is what it says it is. You might think that everyone knows how to make safe food – that it’s just general knowledge.  Enough food businesses have made mistakes in the past that the government has needed to create rules to keep us all safe.

"Even though there are rules to follow, they’re not ‘one size fits all’. The rules you need to follow depend on the food you’re making or selling. There are tons of way for food to become unsafe. Harmful bugs can grow in some foods if they’re kept at the wrong temperature and things like chemicals, metal (metal tinging) and stones can get into your food. It’s your job to manage the food safety and suitability risks that apply to you so you know you’re keeping your customers safe and happy.

"Luckily not all risks apply to all businesses. For example, let’s follow the life of the humble kiwi pie. A baker making between 1 and 100 batches of pies every week needs to think about all of the things that could make people sick. They’ll need to check their ingredients are delivered and stored safely, but the bakers and other kitchen staff wash their hands and wear clean clothes that the kitchen is clean and tidy and that the pie fillings are cooked and cooled safely. They’ll also make sure that pies containing allergens are kept separate from pies that don’t contain allergens and that all pies are packaged and labelled correctly.

"A local dairy owner selling the bakery’s pies has less things to think about. The dairy owner will need to check that their fridge keeps the pies at the right temperature, that pies are reheated all the way through, the pie warmer keeps them at the right temperature, and pies are sold before the date on the wrapper.

"Both the bakery and local dairy need to do things to keep food safe. The way the rules work means the baker, who is handling raw ingredients and exposed food, will have to do more to prove that the way they make their pies won’t make people sick, or make them go ‘YUCK!’.

"Now that you know why there are rules, and that there are different rules for different businesses you might be wondering how you will know what the rules are for your business? The risk level for certain products or business type has been pre-determined. All you really need to do is find out which rules you need to follow and go for it!

"You can do that by answering some simple questions in the ‘Where do I fit?’ tool.

"Then watch the next video for more information about the different sets of rules and how to follow them."

[Video ends]

[End of transcript]

Step 2: Create a plan or programme to make safe food

Under the Food Act 2014, you will need to follow a food control plan or national programme for making and selling food. The plan or programme you need to complete depends on the rules you need to follow. You will find these in Step 1.

You will need make sure everyone in your business follows the plan or programme.

Food control plans

National programmes


Video: Create a plan to make food safe (4:56)


[Video begins. Animations play during the video. The animations demonstrate what the narrator is talking about, giving visual examples of the scenarios and information.]

Narrator: "In the last video we talked about why there are rules, how the rules you need to follow will depend on the food you’re making or selling and suggested you use the ‘My food rules’ Tool to find the right rules that apply to you. The ‘My food rules’ Tool would have told you whether you need to register under a Food Control Plan or a National Programme. "What’s the difference? And what does that mean for me?", I hear you ask. That’s a great question. Both are fancy legal names for different sets of rules and each comes with different things you need to do to apply the rules. This video explains the difference between a Food Control Plan and a National Programme. Let’s take a closer look.

"The main differences between Food Control Plans and National Programmes are that Food Control Plans require you to have written procedures for how you will manage food safety and suitability risk in your business. And National Programmes don’t. Food Control Plans are used by businesses where there are lots of potential food risks, like the bakery in the previous video. A Food Control Plan requires written procedures, because businesses using this plan are using technically challenging processes and products and managing lots of risks to make and sell safe and suitable food every time.

"Keeping all of this information in your head at one time can be pretty hard so it’s best to write down and follow the steps each time to make sure you don’t forget something and make people sick. National Programmes apply to businesses where there are fewer potential risks, like the local dairy in the previous video. A National Programme doesn’t require written procedures as there are fewer risks or the processes are shorter and easier to learn and remember.

"Just for something different, let’s think about shoes. A shoe maker making shoes for a range of brands has lots of things to think about when making the shoes, and the process is different for different styles and brands of shoes. Sure, they’ll be skilled enough to make a basic shoe without needing to follow written instructions every time – but when they have to make thousands of pairs of shoes, and maintain quality and consistency, they’ll have written instructions for each type to make sure they get it right every time (Louboutin are not going to be happy if the shoemaker forgets to put the red sole on some pairs, or uses white stitching on some and black on others). 

"There are lots of variables and processes to learn and manage and lots of opportunities for things to go wrong. A person learning to tie their shoe only needs to learn one process, it’s the same every time and there’s not much room for things to go wrong. In food safety terms, the shoe maker would need a food control plan and the person learning to tie their shoe would need a national programme.

"A Food Control Plan sets out the rules you will follow in your business to produce safe and suitable food. It needs to include information about what you’re making, where you’re making it, how you make it, the risks to food safety and suitability that you need to manage, how you plan to manage them, who is responsible for making sure things are done, and what you will do if things go wrong.

"Just because you need a plan doesn’t mean you need to write it yourself. New Zealand Food Safety has created template food control plans that some food businesses can pick up, tailor, follow and register. These plans set out, for each rule that applies to you, what you need to know, what you need to do, and what you need to show your verifier (the person who checks your plan is right for you and is working).

"If there isn’t a template food control plan available for your type of food business or if you want to do things your way, you can write your own plan that shows that you can make safe and suitable food. This is called a Custom Food Control Plan.

"We call National Programmes the ‘just tell me what to do’ option. They are a set of rules you must follow. You don’t need any written procedures but you still need to understand how to keep risks under control and how to keep people from getting sick. There are three levels of National Programme, with more rules that apply as you go up the levels:

"The lowest level, with the fewest rules, is National Programme 1 for food businesses that have fewer risks, or simpler processes, to manage like horticulture growers and food transporters.

"National Programme 2 is for food businesses like jam makers and people who make chips and confectionery.

"National Programme 3 is for food businesses that make drinks, people who process herbs and spices, and the local dairy operator reheating pies.

"Some of the rules in National Programmes specify how you must complete certain processes. If you have a way of doing something that isn’t how the rule says you must do it you can choose to write your own rules – as long as you can prove they still result in safe and suitable food - by using a food control plan.

"So what do I have to do? If you haven’t already found your rules, head over to the ‘Where do I fit’ tool to help you work out whether you need a Food Control Plan or National Programme. The next thing to do is follow the steps on either the Food Control Plan or National Programmes web page. Then get cooking!"

[The following title appears: Food Act 2014. The logo for 'New Zealand Food Safety – Ministry for Primary Industries – Manatū Ahu Matua' appears.]

[Video ends]

[End of transcript]

Step 3: Register your business

All food businesses need to be registered before you start making and selling food. There are 2 options for registering – either with MPI or with your local council. The 'My food rules' tool will tell you where to register.

Find out more about registering

Step 4: Get checked

Once you have a plan or programme in place, you will need to get everything checked by a person (a verifier) to ensure you are making and selling safe and suitable food.

Find a food verifier on our register


Video: What's a verification? (1:28)

[Jazz background music, narrator talks while a hand can be seen drawing a cartoon of a chef.]

0:00 So, you’re wanting to start a food business, and all that’s on your mind is just making the food and making some money.

0:08 However, before you do that you need to register with your council or with MPI.

0:13 And then get it checked. Right? Right.

0.16 So listen up! This check-up or properly known as a food safety verification shows that you can demonstrate safe food practices, have an understanding for food safety, and you practise it every day.

[A hand draws a chef in a kitchen with another person. A folder titled 'Food safety verification' is on the bench.]

0:28 Why? Because if you don’t make safe food, people get sick [sound of flies, sick sound], they blame it on the last thing they ate, they complain to the council, they complain to their friends, they complain online, and essentially tarnish the reputation of your business.

[Drawing of a building with an "Out of business" sign across it.]

0:42 Food safety is absolutely crucial for keeping both your customers and your business safe.

0:48 But how do you know if you’re keeping food safe so you can pass your verification?

0:52 Your local food safety verifiers are here to coach you along the way and suggest tips and tricks to make sure you’re getting your food safety right.

[Drawing of a chef talking to verifier with speech bubbles saying "Does this look right", "If this happens again what should I do?", "What's the legal requirement for...", "How do I check for pests?", "How can I do this better?".]

1:00 Get to know them, ask them questions, and take in all you can from your verifier session.

1:06 With a good understanding of food safety, you can spend more time making safe food and less time with your verifier.

1:12 Happy belly, happy customer. [belch sound]

1:16 For a more in depth look at what happens at a verification, check out our next video.

[Video of an egg being broken into a frying pan with a title across it saying "Food Act 2014".]

[End of transcript]

Guidance documents for food businesses

Use our comprehensive guidance document, The notebook, to find out what food rules apply to a new business, how to put together a food control plan or national programme, find a verifier, and get registered.

The notebook – for businesses making and selling food [PDF, 916 KB]

Summary guidance about how to start a food business

Do you want to make and sell food? [PDF, 346 KB]

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