Ireland has launched a food safety information campaign highlighting the collaboration required from farm to fork to protect food safety.

It was unveiled ahead of the inaugural World Food Safety Day, which is June 7 and is supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Michael Creed, the minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, said the day is an opportunity to reflect on food safety systems in place in Ireland.

“These help to ensure that the food we produce is safe, authentic and traceable. The high standards to which we hold ourselves in Ireland are recognized both by consumers here in Ireland and in the many countries worldwide in which Irish food and drinks products are consumed and enjoyed,” he said.

The theme of this year’s World Food Safety Day is “Food Safety, Everyone’s Business.” The day was adopted after a vote in the U.N. General Assembly in December 2018. The idea was initially raised in 2015.

The Irish campaign states that farmers, processors and business operators must adopt good practices to ensure potential risks to food safety are properly addressed.

The department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the Department of Health, Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), Health Service Executive (HSE), and local authorities control food safety risks along the supply chain, through direct and indirect oversight, and by collaborating with stakeholders.

Creed said promoting and safeguarding public health is a priority for his department with more than 600 staff involved in food safety and authenticity controls.

“The food safety, and food authenticity strategy, which I launched last year, sets out the vision and objectives that my department, in consultation with regulatory partners, will pursue as the food industry continues to implement Food Wise 2025.”

Food business responsibility
Pamela Byrne, chief executive of FSAI, said all 50,000 food businesses in Ireland have a legal responsibility to ensure food they provide is as safe as possible.

“This World Food Safety Day message, never wash raw chicken, is a further layer of protection that consumers can take to ensure in particular that the prevalence of Campylobacter and other harmful bugs are reduced when preparing chicken in the home,” she said.

“It is notable that such is the importance of food safety to consumer health that it now has a designated World Food Safety Day, we continue to be determined as the regulatory agency charged with protecting consumers that the food supply chain continues to be guarded and policed for compliance. We welcome information campaigns that further advocate best practice so the public can take measures to further protect themselves from the food borne pathogens or bugs that can cause illness.”

This year’s campaign is directed at consumers and minister for Health Simon Harris said food safety is of importance to the health and well-being of people in Ireland and abroad.

“When food safety is not taken seriously, it not only significantly affects health and well-being, but also has economic consequences for individuals, families, communities, businesses and countries and can impose a substantial burden on healthcare systems and markedly reduce economic productivity,” he said.

Don’t wash raw chicken
Harris said primary responsibility for food safety rests with business operators but everyone must work together to create public confidence in the safety of food.

“Food safety awareness, enforcement, information, support and assistance is the task of many different players, and I would wish to pay tribute to the many who play such a vital role in providing the best food safety controls to protect consumers…,” he said.

“I would also wish to acknowledge safefood as the body with an over-arching role on the island of Ireland in relation to the promotion of food safety and particularly for its role in this year’s ‘Never Wash Raw Chicken’ campaign.”

In 2017 there were 4,207 reported cases of Campylobacter infection in Ireland.

Ray Dolan, CEO of safefood, said eight out of 10 adults eat chicken every week.

“But washing raw chicken does the complete opposite to cleaning it and can spread food poisoning germs around your kitchen. Because that spray can reach up to 80 centimeters, or about an arm’s length away from your sink, safefood is reminding people to never wash raw chicken,” he said.

“If you do, you can spread these germs into the ‘splash zone’ of things that are near your sink like clean dishes drying, a baby’s bottle or ready-to-eat foods like fruit, which could be putting you and yours at risk of food poisoning. Cooking chicken properly gets rid of all the germs anyway, so washing it doesn’t really do any good.”

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