ACT eateries that breach hygiene laws will be named and shamed on a government website after new food safety legislation passed the Legislative Assembly yesterday.
Under the new laws, which were supported by all three parties, businesses will have to display their registration certificates, and a closure notice if the government issues them with a prohibition order.
Eateries will also be required to have a trained food safety officer on site to ensure businesses are meeting hygiene regulations.
The new laws come 12 months after an investigation by The Canberra Times revealed restaurants that had breached food safety laws would not be named publicly on the grounds it might jeopardise their commercial viability.
The protection was offered despite ACT Health issuing dozens of warnings to ACT businesses urging them to clean their unhygienic kitchens and banning businesses from selling meals on seven occasions because of fears customers might be poisoned.
Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said the passage of the food amendment bill yesterday was ''a pivotal step forward in improving food safety and regulatory transparency''.
''Unfortunately over the past year gaps in the knowledge of the people who work in the industry have been discovered,'' Ms Gallagher said.
''With this bill the Assembly can address some of the issues by improving food safety knowledge through the introduction of food safety supervisors.
''It will also make the enforcement actions taken by the Health Protection Service more transparent to the general public.''
Ms Gallagher said food businesses would be given 18 months to train and implement their food safety supervisors.
She added that a dedicated food safety directorate had been formed at the Health Protection Service to improve the management of food safety in the ACT.
Opposition health spokesman Jeremy Hanson said the legislation addressed some of the ''failings'' identified in the auditor-general's report on food safety, but sought an assurance that issues not covered by the bill, such as poor record-keeping practices within ACT Health, would be resolved.
Mr Hanson said small food businesses with a high staff turnover should have a period of grace to train replacement food safety supervisors, and also asked the government to reveal when its name and shame website would be operational.
''The Canberra Liberals support this [bill] on the presumption that that will be addressed and it will be done in a timely manner,'' he said.
Greens MLA Amanda Bresnan said the next step to improving food hygiene in the ACT was to implement a system similar to the Scores on Doors scheme in NSW, where businesses display a food safety rating in their windows.
A spokeswoman for Ms Gallagher said the template for the name and shame register was being finalised and the register would be available through the ACT Health Directorate website once the first conviction was recorded under the new act. The new legislation is likely to come into effect next week.
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