Local Regulations and Licences

Food safety requirements and grading system

We inspect food premises and provide food safety information for anyone making, giving away or selling food.

Food safety requirements

A new food safety law came into force in March 2016. The Food Act applies to all businesses that make, sell, grow or transport food commercially. It also applies to businesses that serve food, like school canteens or clubs.

Anyone who starts a business that involves food must follow the new law. There is a three-year transition period for existing businesses.

You can find out more about the Food Act and what it means for you on the Ministry for Primary Industries website. Use the Where Do I Fit online tool to find out what rules you need to follow.

Find out more on the MPI website

If you have any questions, call the MPI food safety helpline on 0800 69 37 21, email info@mpi.govt.nz or contact the Palmerston North City Council Environmental Health team on 06 356 8199

Food safety grading purpose

The food grading system's primary focus is to ensure that food is produced, stored, displayed and delivered to the consumer safely.

In a private home where food is prepared for a small number of people, the spread of any food contamination is restricted.

Food contamination in a commercial business like a restaurant can affect a large number of people.

The presence of food spoilage, bacteria, taints or foreign material may not cause food poisoning but can still result in considerable loss if the product cannot be used.

The Council aims to raise public awareness that the highest standard of food production and preparation is being achieved. As a result, consumers are able to make an informed decision when purchasing food, knowing that it has been safely produced and stored.

This system is beneficial to food premises owners as it allows them to promote their business through their grade.

Food safety grading assessment

Food premises are assessed on a number of criteria, including cleanliness and staff training. These are listed below. 

Structure of premises

  • Complies with the structural requirements of the Food Hygiene Regulations 1974
  • Premises must be suitable in all respects for the purpose of providing food to the public and is able to be registered
  • Adequate facilities with no serious deficiencies in its construction, layout and repairs

Conduct and practices

  • Food is stored and displayed safely
  • Appropriate management systems in place
  • Good monitoring and recording practices established
  • Pest management systems in place


  • Excellent overall standard of cleanliness

Staff training

  • Staff are trained in Food Safety

Please Note: If the supervisor or manager has not completed NZQA Unit 168 or equivalent by the given date, the highest score a premises can obtain is a 3.

Rating system

Each criteria will be scored between 0 and 5. The total score indicates the grade earned.

The grades are:

A = Excellent - where an inspection score of 17-20 is achieved.

B = Satisfactory - where an inspection score of 12-16 is achieved.

D = Unsatisfactory - where an inspection score of 11-6 is achieved.

E = Substandard - where the inspection score is below 6 (Prosecution or closure is likely)

Why is there no C grade?

There is no C grade to have a clear separation between the grades. This means A and B grades equal good food safety standards, and D and E equal below standard.

The grading system only applies to food premises which are registered (or have a health licence) with the Palmerston North City Council. Some food premises, like supermarkets, are exempt from Council registration as they have an approved Food Safety Programme from the Ministry for Primary Industries.

The grading certificate (Health Licence) must be displayed to the public.

If you have any questions or require more information about how food premises are graded, contact Council Environmental Services on 06 356 8199