Are restaurant doggy-bags legal in Australia?

Sally Santacruz of the Australian Institute of Food Safety writes that many people consider it their right to take home any food leftover after a restaurant meal. Australian restaurants have begun to ban the popular custom of allowing diners to take home uneaten food – but this doesn’t necessarily mean the practice is illegal. There’s currently no law in Australia that would prevent restaurants from offering their customers take-away containers for leftover food.

According to each state’s food board, it’s actually up to the restaurant, but they do recommend erring on the side of caution. These authorities suggest that the containers be dated and the customer is given instructions on how to safely store and reheat the food. Some restaurants are taking this advice a step further and asking those who wish to take home leftovers to sign a legal waiver.

Although some restaurants may be reluctant to provide take-away boxes, consumers in Australia are legally permitted to doggy-bag their own meals if they’re willing to run the risk of food poisoning.

We delved into the issue over a decade ago in southern Ontario (that’s in Canada).

At the time our work was published, I said, “With leftovers, people need information the moment they pull that container or clamshell package from the fridge. How long has it been in the fridge? Is it still safe? Our approach was to provide practical information, right on the container.”

We concluded that a safe food handling label for take-out food was a promising value-added investment for restaurant operators as long as the stickers were used consistently and employees supported the initiative.“We strive to provide the right food safety message in the right setting,” Powell said. “Hand washing information should go over sinks and the back door of toilet stalls. Food preparation information should go in the back kitchen. Stickers with safe food handling information should go on the clamshell containers that people take home and put in the fridge. That’s where the learning moment is.”

Also, always bring the clamshell to the table and let customers add their food, rather than taking the plate – and the customer’s germs – into the kitchen.

Assessing management perspectives of a safe food-handling label for casual dining take-out food


Food Protection Trends, Vol 29, No 10, pages 620-625

Brae V. Surgeoner, Tanya MacLaurin, Douglas A. Powell

Faced with the threat of food safety litigation in a highly competitive industry, foodservice establishments must take proactive steps to avoid foodborne illness.

Consumer demand for convenience food, coupled with evidence that consumers do not always engage in proper food-safety practices, means that take-out food from casual dining restaurant establishments can lead to food safety concerns.

A prescriptive safe food-handling label was designed through a Delphi-type exercise. A purposive sample of 10 foodservice managers was then used to evaluate the use of the label on take-out products. Semi-structured in-depth interviews focused on the level of concern for food safety, the value of labelling take-out products, perceived effectiveness of the provided label, and barriers to implementing a label system. Interviews were audiotaped and transcribed, and the data was interpreted using content analysis to identify and develop overall themes and sub-themes related to the areas of inquiry.

It was found that labeling is viewed as a beneficial marketing tool by which restaurants can be differentiated from their competitors based on their proactive food safety stance.