Do you want to start a food business in South Africa and want to know what is a Certificate of Acceptability? A Certificate of Acceptability, also referred to as a “COA” is a food business permit/license.
It is a compliance certificate issued to food handling premises as per the requirements set out in Regulations R638: 2018 (Regulations Governing the General Hygiene Requirements for Food Premises, the Transport of Food and Related Matters). It is mandatory for any food business whose operations fall under The Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act 54 of 1972.
A COA for food handling premises confirms that the local authority has inspected the premises and the premises was found compliant with regulatory requirements.
This post was last updated on 18 August 2023
Who Should Apply for a Certificate of Acceptability?
Before any food handling business starts its operations, it is critical that it obtains permission to trade from the local authority.
In South Africa, the Certificate of Acceptability (COA) is typically required for establishments that handle and prepare food, ensuring that they adhere to food safety standards and regulations.
Restaurants, cafes, food vendors, caterers, food processing plants, home-based food businesses and other food handling-related businesses (including transport and distribution) should all apply for a Certificate of Acceptability.
This certificate indicates that the establishment meets the necessary health and hygiene requirements to ensure the safety of the food they handle and serve to the public. It’s an essential step to demonstrate your commitment to food safety and to protect the health of consumers.
Always check with local authorities or regulatory bodies for the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding the specific requirements and process for obtaining a Certificate of Acceptability in South Africa.
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What You Can Expect During an Inspection
The local authority would normally be a municipality and will be represented by a municipal environmental health inspector. The Health Inspector would inspect the premises, whether mobile or immobile, to determine if it complies with all regulations as stipulated in Regulations R638. The different sub-regulations within the regulation have different sets of requirements.
The inspector is required to check the following:
- The location and structure of the food-handling premises.
- If good food handling practices are implemented.
- Record keeping to ensure traceability.
- Accredited Food Safety training is in place for the person in charge (manager or owner).
- Food Safety training for all food handlers. This training can be conducted by a suitably qualified person in the business or by a training provider like ASC.
- Equipment suitability.
- That effective pest control measures are in place.
- Any other health hazards that could potentially contaminate the food.
Only when the inspector is satisfied that the food handling operations of the business pose no harm to the food would they issue the Certificate of Acceptability.
The Main Requirements of Regulations R638 in a Nutshell
Regulations R638 consist of 17 Regulations and 7 Annexures and the main regulatory requirements are:
- Regulation 3: Requirements for a Certificate of Acceptability.
- Regulation 5: Standards and Requirements for Food Premises.
- Regulation 6: Standards and Requirements for Facilities on Food Premises.
- Regulation 7: Standards and Requirements for Food Containers, Appliances, and Equipment.
- Regulation 8: Standards and Requirements for the Display, Storage and Temperature of Food.
- Regulation 9: Standards and Requirements for Protective Clothing
- Regulation 10: Duties of the Person in Charge of Food Premises
- Regulation 11: Duties of a Food Handler
- Regulation 12: Standards and Requirements for the Transportation and Handling of Meat and Meat Products
- Regulation 13: Standards and Requirements for the Transportation of Food
The 5 Basic Steps to Get a Certificate of Acceptability (COA)?
- Download a copy of Regulations R638.
- Ensure that your facility complies with the requirements as detailed in the regulation, including the required Food Safety training. Our Food Safety Course for Persons in Charge simplifies all the requirements of Regulations R638.
- Contact your local authority/municipality and apply for a COA.
- An inspector (EHP) will visit and inspect your premises.
- If satisfied, the local authority will issue you with a COA.
What are the Rules for the Certificate of Acceptability (COA)?
- Display your COA somewhere clearly visible to the public, if practically possible.
- If not possible, keep a copy on hand.
- If the Person in Charge of a facility changes, you must inform the local authority within 30 days to issue a new COA.
- If you make significant renovations that might change the scope of your operations, you must inform the local authority.
- The COA applies to a specific food premise, and if you move your food premises, you will need to apply for another COA.
- A customer has a right to request to see your Certificate of Acceptability.
A Certificate of Acceptability is a food handling business permit confirming that a food handling organisation complies with the basic food safety and hygiene requirements. It is the most basic form of government-issued compliance certification a food-handling organisation requires before implementing more stringent requirements.
It is important to note that it is mandatory to have a Certificate of Acceptability issued under Regulations R638 if you handle food that is included in the scope of the regulation.
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