The Food Safety Authority of Ireland has found some stores in the country had “deficiencies” in procedures to withdraw or recall food.

An audit showed four stores had no processes in place to effectively deal with the withdrawal or recall of a food supplied by a local supplier, e.g. meat products, eggs, bread or confectionery. A local supplier is defined as one who enters into a contractual agreement with an individual store or stores in a locality to supply food items which they produce.

Two stores had no systems to inform the competent authorities of a recall of a locally supplied product, and one outlet was not aware of its legal requirement to display a point of sale (POS) notice informing consumers of product recalls and the reason for them.

“This delay in displaying a POS notice could result in unsafe food being consumed, which could be avoided with timely action in stores to inform consumers of the risks,” according to the federal agency’s audit report.

The main reasons given by store operators for the audit findings were that they were unaware of the legal obligations to inform consumers of product recalls, for example, by displaying POS notices, or have procedures in place to recall or withdraw products supplied to them by local suppliers.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) audited seven multiple retailers based on their grocery market share and the number of stores they operate in Ireland. The agency did not name the retailers but SuperValu, Spar, Tesco, Dunnes, Lidl and Aldi have stores in the country.

A total of 14 stores – two from each retailer – were audited unannounced and seven announced visits between July and September 2017 were made to the head offices of the multiple retailers. One head office did not have sufficient traceability systems to identify products implicated in recalls.

HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) requirements in Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 demand that food business operators retain relevant documents and records for an appropriate period of time.

The audit team reviewed a number of past recalls and withdrawals and found that two stores, which operated on behalf of one group, had not kept records of previous recalls and withdrawals. The audit team did not find any evidence to substantiate that these recalls had been actioned by the stores.

They identified 19 non-compliances with article 19 of Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 which sets the general principles and requirements of food law.

Examples of non-compliances included lack of oversight and verification by head office that stores have received and actioned withdrawal or recall notifications; lack of reconciliation of stock returned at the central distribution center level; and delays in displaying POS notices in stores with instructions as to where they should be displayed not facilitating consumers being informed.

“Two of the seven multiple retailers displayed the POS notice at the shelf location of the affected product. The audit team noted that this would be clearly visible to customers as they moved through the store,” according to the report.

“The location where POS notices are displayed in stores should be reviewed by the head offices of the multiple retailers, particularly in cases where notices are displayed at the Customer Service Desk, which may be located some distance away from customer traffic areas in the store, and particularly where the notice may be displayed some distance away from the food or product concerned.”

Positive practices seen during the audit included stores that had designated quarantine areas in which stock subject to recalls or withdrawals was isolated from other stock, so it could be collected by the supplier. One multiple retailer had a system where three bells rang out in the store to alert management that a product recall or withdrawal notification required action.

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