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Food sales on social media can leave sour taste

Selling food on social media is on the rise in the Far North with unregistered food sellers tempting residents and visitors with a smorgasbord of hygiene and financial woes.

There is no way of knowing whether unregistered food sellers are following food safety rules laid out in the Food Act (2014). This states that anyone selling food through a café, at a restaurant, shop, market, from a food truck, or online needs to register their business with the council.

Unhygienic practices can lead to food poisoning and the spread of food-borne illnesses. Despite these risks to the community, unregistered food sellers often advertise food via social media community noticeboards. Baked goods, seafood and hāngī are examples of foods regularly advertised on social media.

Anyone caught selling food illegally can be fined $450 for each time they are observed trading without a registration.

Buying food from unregistered sellers via social media can also put buyers at financial risk through online scams. Unwitting buyers are often encouraged to place food orders via private messaging platforms. It is easy for social media profiles to be faked making it very difficult to recover money paid for goods.

Many legal and honest food businesses also advertise their products on social media. These operators usually include links to their business webpages that contain verifiable addresses and contact details.

There are only a few exceptions when merchants don’t have to register when selling food. These are:

  • When members of sports clubs, social clubs or maraes have events less than 20 times per year to raise funds for charity, cultural or community groups and where food is not the purpose of the event
  • Once in a calendar year at an event such as a local fair.

You do have to register if you are:

  • Fundraising more than 20 times per year
  • Catering events at clubs, or selling food at club bars or restaurants
  • Bartering, exchanging or selling food commercially at fairs, markets, or community events more than once per year.

Anyone planning to sell food should visit the Far North District Council website where they can also access quarterly newsletters providing tips for each new season. The latest autumn ‘He kai karere' food newsletter (under ‘Our Newsletters’, on the website) includes useful links for those registering their food businesses.

Helpful links:

The food safety rules that apply to your business

Food premises - Far North District Council

Autumn newsletter 'He kai karere'