Local Regulations and Licences

Food safety

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. There are rules, too, for sausage sizzles, cake stalls and other fundraising or community events where you're selling or serving food.

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.

Food safety grading system

The food safety grading system aims to ensure food is produced, stored, displayed and delivered safely.

At home, where food is prepared for a small number of people, any food contamination is restricted. But food contamination in a commercial business like a restaurant can affect a lot of people.

Food spoilage, bacteria, taints or foreign material may not cause food poisoning but can still result in considerable loss if the product can’t be used.

Our work in the food safety area is about raising public awareness so the highest standard of food production and preparation is being achieved, and consumers can make informed choices.

The system benefits food businesses by allowing them to promote their business through their grade.

Food safety grading assessment

Food premises are assessed on a number of criteria.

Premises structure:

  • complies with the structural requirements of the Food Hygiene Regulations 1974
  • is suitable for providing food to the public
  • provides adequate facilities with no serious deficiencies in its construction, layout and repairs.

Conduct and practices:

  • food is stored and displayed safely
  • appropriate management systems are in place
  • good monitoring and recording practices
  • pest management systems in place.


  • excellent overall standard of cleanliness.

Staff training:

  • staff are trained in food safety
  • if the supervisor or manager hasn’t completed NZQA Unit 168 or equivalent by the given date, the highest score a premises can get is a three.

Grading certificates (health licences)

Each of the criteria above is scored between 0 and 5. The total score indicates the grade earned.

Your grading certificate must be displayed to the public.

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)

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.

For more information, call our Environmental Services team on 06 356 8199.