Nearly half of the Irish population does not pay full attention to use-by dates, according to a Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) survey. And, more than six in 10 people in Ireland leave leftovers to cool out of the fridge overnight.

FSAI research on food safety and hygiene, shopping habits and eating out, and concerns about food and the industry provided an insight into consumer attitudes on food safety.

Nine out of ten people said food is as safe or safer than it was five years ago but consumers admitted they demonstrate risky behaviors in relation to food handling at home.

As well as the 45 percent that do not pay attention to use-by dates, seven out of 10 had used food past its use-by date. Nearly half the population store food in the fridge without any wrapping.

The national survey was done by Amárach in November 2018 with a representative sample of 1,000 adults aged 18 and older.

FSAI has also launched a strategy for the next five years. The strategy 2019-2023 sets out a roadmap with achievement benchmarks to protect consumers of Irish food domestically and abroad. It covers enforcement and compliance, science, expertise and evidence, communication and engagement and organizational excellence.

Pamela Byrne, CEO of FSAI, said the strategy incorporates a modern approach using collaboration with partners and the best available science and evidence to deliver robust, proportionate and fair enforcement of regulations.

“How and where we get our food is constantly changing with many factors impacting on food safety. Our strategy outlines our ambition, clear priorities and actions so that we are ready to adapt, always evolving and regulating swiftly within a rapidly changing food environment,” she said.

“Research, evidence and science are critical to deepening our knowledge of the known risks and in identifying emerging risks to food safety and integrity. This in turn enables us to manage the risks to consumers and their health accordingly.”

Focus for the first year will be on preparing for the new official controls regulation and Brexit; building the evidence base; enhancing resilience to food crises; and strengthening relationships with stakeholders.

Catherine Byrne, the Minister of State with responsibility for health promotion, said 2019 marks 20 years of work by the FSAI in promoting food safety and protecting public health.

“I am confident that through their new five year strategy, they will continue to build on this work, protecting the consumer and strengthening Ireland’s position as a leader in food safety and integrity.”

Food safety project for Albania
Meanwhile, the FSAI is leading a European program to provide food safety support to Albania.

A €5 million ($5.6 million) grant will support Albania as a candidate for accession to the European Union by strengthening food safety, veterinary and plant health standards, during the next four years.

The consortium also includes the Finnish Food Authority (Ruokavirasto), the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) and CBS Creative Business Solutions – an Albanian non-governmental organization with project management by Sustainable Food Systems Ireland (SFSI).

SFSI is a group of five agri-food agencies led by DAFM including Teagasc, Enterprise Ireland and Bord Bia as well as the FSAI.

Luigi Soreca, EU Ambassador to Albania, said the project will bring the country closer to EU standards and improve Albanians’ everyday life and health.

“But let me emphasis one last benefit: it will contribute to opening the EU market to Albanian products. Our legislation is very clear about this – food items cannot be imported unless they respect the integrity of the EU food chain.”

The program will provide experts in food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary systems to help Albania harmonize its legislation to EU norms, strengthen safety at all stages of the food chain and improve consumer and business awareness of food safety issues in the south-eastern European country.

Byrne, CEO of FSAI, said working with other countries to improve food safety standards will enable Ireland to protect consumers at home and abroad.

“With strong commitment from all our consortium partners, we were in a position to put together a winning bid and start work with the EU to help Albania align its food safety systems with EU standards,” she said.

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