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Keep cups are okay!

Many businesses are embracing the use of environmentally friendly reusable packaging, such as cafés using reusable cups. This can reduce packaging waste and if done correctly can be a safe, sustainable option for food businesses and food consumers throughout the Mornington Peninsula. 

There is increasing demand for food businesses to provide take away foods in reusable containers that have been provided by customers. This includes using a Keep Cup for takeaway coffee or using glass or plastic tubs to buy meat or take home leftovers from restaurants.

We spoke to our Circular Economy team to answer a few frequently asked questions:

Is there any law or regulation stopping consumers from using their own containers for any food? 

Neither the Victorian Food Act 1984 (the Act) or National Food Safety Standards places any legislative requirements that would prevent a food business from using a container provided by a customer to store or package food that they have purchased. This has not changed due to the pandemic. If a food business has a policy to not accept customer containers for the storage of food purchased, then that is a business decision rather than a restraint due to food safety legislation. 

Can a customer take home leftovers from a restaurant in their own container? 

There is no provision under the Food Act or National Food Safety Standards that prevents a business from allowing a customer to take leftovers from a restaurant in their own containers. If you take leftovers home, either eat it immediately or put it in the fridge immediately to consume within 1-2 days. Throw out any high-risk food that has been left in the temperature danger zone of between 5 °C and 60 °C for more than four hours. 

Further food safety guidance for food businesses, community groups and consumers is available. 

What are the obligations on food businesses, community groups and consumers? 

The decision for registered food premises not to use customers containers is a business decision. In making this decision, businesses may consider the quality of the container and the likelihood of it being able to taint or compromise the chemical/bacterial quality of the food they are supplying.

There is no legislative requirement for business to refuse to use a customer’s container. It is the customers responsibility to ensure that their container is clean and sanitised so that there is no risk of any food safety issues occurring. 

When packaging food for sale the packaging material must not pose a risk to the safety of the food being placed into that packaging. This means the packaging must be free from microbiological, chemical and physical contamination.

Although the national Food Standards Code and Victorian Food Act 1984 does not specifically prohibit customers from taking their own packaging to a business to have food placed into it, the business must consider possible risks to the food that is placed into the packs. This may include the risk to the business reputation if the person having food placed into their own packaging gets sick or becomes injured by the food. 

How should food containers be cleaned and sanitised? 

The food container should be provided by the customer in a clean state, however regular dishwashing and hygiene practises will make sure its safe. 

If managed correctly, reusables are a safe, sustainable option for food businesses and patrons.

Content reviewed and updated: May 2024

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