SUTHERLAND Shire Council received 148 food safety complaints last year about cafes, restaurants and other businesses, but issued only six fines.
Fifty businesses were subjected to ongoing monitoring and intervention, 12 improvement notices were issued, and warning letters were sent in 38 cases.
Council officers made 1808 inspections of the 749 businesses in the shire considered to be at high risk, and another 141 rated medium risk.
The figures were included in the 2011-2012 local government activity report on food safety, released recently by Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson.
A council spokeswoman said its policy was to work with food businesses to help them comply with required standards under the law.
"Our focus is to monitor the standards that deal with construction of food preparation areas, food equipment and food safety practices," she said.
"Where a business fails an inspection on a regular basis council can issue an on-the-spot fine.
"If a business consistently breaches the standards and there is a public health issue, court action can be taken."
The spokeswoman said the government requirement for most food businesses to nominate a food safety supervisor by October 2011 had been instrumental in raising the standard in many outlets.
Ms Hodgkinson said food safety compliance rates across the state had increased, resulting in less chance of food poisoning.
There had been fewer penalties, seizures and prosecutions for serious non-compliance compared with the previous four years.
"The results of this enforcement hierarchy also highlighted that intervention and business support are effective means of encouraging compliance," she said.
Four shire businesses were listed on the NSW Food Authority’s ‘‘name and shame’’ website in 2012.
Franklins in Westfield Miranda and at Engadine were each fined $800 for selling food past its use-by-date after receiving warnings from council inspectors.
Bangor Hot Bread was fined $440 for having a hand wash basin obstructed despite previous warnings.
La Zona Cafe at Gymea also received warnings before being fined $440 for failing to maintain premises, fixtures, fittings and equipment to the required standard of cleanliness.
For more shire listings visit the official government website below.