The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has published the new guidance to help growers with the safe production of all fresh produce coming off Irish farms and more is involved than advice for those potatoes that go with many an Irish beef or lamb dish.
And those meat and potato meals have never been as simple as we remember. Irish grown onions, chives, cabbages, celery, wild garlic and leeks are part of the recipe.
Apples and plums are favorites with Irish produce growers along with berries and nuts. And there is always the fruit of the colorful strawberry trees. The FSAI guidance is for fresh produce growers, including fresh fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, sprouted seeds, edible flowers and herbs.
The FSAI guidance is the product of a working group that included growers, processors, retailers and state experts. The fresh products covered by the guidance document include components that are said to be integral to the Irish diet.
“As such, it is important that growers producing fresh produce in Ireland use good agriculture and hygiene practices to reduce risk and improve the safety of fresh produce for all consumers,” said FSAI’s announcement.
The new guidance comes at a time when outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with fresh produce are increasing. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has identified that fresh produce such as leafy greens, bulb and stem vegetables, tomatoes, melons, fresh pods, legumes, grains, sprouted seeds and berries pose the highest risks to consumers.
In 2013, frozen berries caused 240 confirmed cases of hepatitis, with a probable 1,075 further cases across 11 European countries, including Ireland. The FSAI’s advice to boil all frozen imported berries before consumption is still in place, as contaminated berries could still be circulating in the food chain.
According to FSAI Chief Executive Pamela Byrne, anything that comes into contact with fresh produce has the potential to cause contamination and it is vital that growers take the necessary steps to limit contamination of fresh produce in the first instance.
Anyone producing fresh produce for sale in Ireland must be registered as a grower with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The guidance cites eight key areas which growers should address to help reduce risk and improve food safety, including:
- Choose the right site to grow fresh produce;
- Restrict the access of animals, pests and people to that site;
- Use organic fertilizers safely;
- Use pesticides safely;
- Source and use a safe water supply;
- Use good harvesting practices;
- Train staff and provide good staff facilities; and
- Put a system of traceability and recall in place.
The FSAI acknowledged and thanked the working group that assisted in developing the guidance document. It was comprised of growers, processors, retailers as well as representatives of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Bord Bia, Teagasc, the EPA and the Irish Farmers Association.
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