Food business licences

If you handle or prepare unpackaged food, you will generally need a food business licence. Examples of unpackaged foods that need a licence are:

  • fruit or vegetable juice that is processed at the place of sale
  • cakes, muffins or biscuits with fresh cream or custard in the filling or icing
  • takeaway food such as hot chips and hamburgers
  • making food by combining ingredients such as jams, sauces, curries or soup
  • bread and bread rolls
  • sandwiches, including toasting sandwiches at a cafe
  • bulk coffee that is repackaged into smaller containers
  • taste testing of cut fresh fruit, chips, salsa, cheese, and similar items
  • any other unpackaged food that is not exempt.

Learn more about the types of food business licences and how to apply.

When is a food business licence not needed?

You do not need a food business licence if you sell:

  • pre-packaged food only
  • whole fruit and vegetables only
  • primary produce, such as milk or meat at a butcher, with accreditation
  • tea, coffee and soft drinks
  • alcohol. A liquor licence may be required to sell alcohol
  • pre-packaged fruit or vegetable juice. You do not need a food business licence for fruit and vegetable juice not prepared at the place of sale (e.g. ginger juice manufactured elsewhere), but you will need to comply with labelling
  • snack foods that are not potentially hazardous, such as:
    • biscuits and cakes (without fresh cream or custard in the filling or icing)
    • carob
    • chocolate bars
    • chocolates
    • churros
    • confectionary
    • corn chips and potato chips
    • crackers
    • croissants
    • doughnuts
    • dried or glazed fruit
    • dried vegetable chips
    • friands
    • meat jerky (pre-packaged)
    • muesli bars
    • muffins (without fresh cream or custard in the filling or icing)
    • nuts
    • popcorn
    • pretzels
    • puffed rice
    • soy chips
    • toasted corn
  • seeds, spices and dried herbs
  • tea leaves
  • coffee beans and ground coffee, or if you grind coffee beans
  • ice and flavoured ice
  • the following foods when they are not potentially hazardous:
    • cereals
    • cocoa
    • coconut
    • uncooked couscous
    • crushed, puffed or toasted nuts, grains and seeds
    • edible oil, for example, olive oil, vegetable oil and macadamia oil
    • flour
    • legumes
    • lentils
    • noodles
    • oats
    • uncooked pasta
    • preparations for spreading on bread, for example, honey, peanut butter, hazelnut spread, Vegemite, jam and marmalade
    • quinoa
    • sugar
    • syrups, for example, golden syrup, maple syrup, rice syrup, malt syrup, glucose syrup and coconut syrup.

Though you may not need a food business licence, you will still need to comply with the Food Act 2006. You can find more information in Queensland Health's guideline, Food safety in not-for-profit organisation's.

Will my not-for-profit food business require a licence?

Different rules apply to licensing of not-for-profit organisations.

Non-profit organisations need a licence when meals are served 12 or more times in a financial year. The term 'meal' refers to food consumed at a table with cutlery. Examples of a meal are:

  • casserole
  • roast meat and vegetables
  • curries and stir-fry
  • salad.

Examples of food that are not a meal:

  • pie and sausage roll
  • hot dog
  • hamburger and hot chips
  • sausage sizzle
  • soup in a cup.

Not-for-profit organisations do not need a food business licence if they sell:

  • packaged food
  • unpackaged food that is not a meal
  • food that is not potentially hazardous, such as:
    • tea and coffee
    • biscuits and cakes
    • soft drink.
  • confectionary and nuts
  • food that has a low risk of causing food poisoning, for example, whole fruit or toast
  • cereal
  • food that the customer helps to prepare, for example, a carer helping to prepare food at an accommodation facility
  • food as part of a training or educational activity, for example, a cooking course where the prepared food is sold to customers to raise money for the organisation.

Or if they are:

  • reheating or serving pre-prepared meals, for example, reheating frozen meals or making soup from a packet mix
  • a surf life-saving club selling meals for a small price when a member helps to prepare them.

You may not need a licence for these activities, however, all not-for-profit organisations will still need to comply with the Food Act 2006. You can find more information in Queensland Health's Food safety in not-for-profit organisations.

Learn more about the types of food business licences and how to apply.

Will my home-based business need a food business licence?

A home kitchen may be suitable for preparing potentially non-hazardous food (low-risk). Generally, a licence will be required.

Examples of suitable food include:

  • plain biscuits
  • confectionary
  • jam, chutney and marmalade. 

Home kitchens may also be suitable for repackaging bulk food, such as confectionery, honey and spices.

If you are unsure if food is potentially hazardous, scientific expertise and laboratory testing may be required.

If you wish to make potentially hazardous food at your residential property, you will need to construct a commercial kitchen. The commercial kitchen must be separate from your home kitchen. This may trigger town planning, building certification, trade waste and insurance requirements.

Read more about Planning Scheme requirements for home-based businesses

Examples of food-based home activities that do not require a licence are:

  • preparing food for a student boarder
  • preparing food for a person as part of a home support service, for example, a carer preparing food at the home of a person with a disability or family day care
  • cooking demonstrations, for example, kitchen product demonstrations at a private residence.

Learn more about the types of food business licences and how to apply.