A company in the Republic of Ireland has been punished for breaches of food law including forging and altering documents.

Arrabawn Co-Operative Society Limited was convicted in a recent district court ruling and fined €40,000 ($46,400). Arrabawn employs 400 people and collects milk from more than 1,000 shareholder farmers. It also has food ingredient and agri business units.

An investigation was started in 2020 by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM).

The agencies found documents had been forged or altered and then provided to customers, third-party auditors, and FSAI and DAFM authorized officers.

The company agreed to pay the FSAI’s legal bill and contribute to investigation costs. A former quality manager was also convicted and fined €6,500 ($7,500).

Documentation and training breaches
Arrabawn pleaded guilty to two charges of possessing forged or altered documents relating to testing of pasteurized milk; possession of forged documents about testing and calibration records and of forged documents on packaging integrity and water treatment.

The company also admitted failing to ensure that food handlers were adequately supervised and instructed and/or trained in food hygiene; two charges of failing to comply with microbiological criteria for Enterobacteriaceae in pasteurized milk; and supplying inaccurate information on the folic acid content of milk.

Pamela Byrne, CEO of FSAI, said the court decision reinforces the obligation that all businesses must abide by food law, which is there to protect consumers.

“The law requires that food businesses must provide accurate documentation in relation to the food safety practices in their business and that their teams are properly trained and adequately supervised. Customers must have confidence in their food suppliers, certain in the knowledge that the food they are purchasing is safe and trustworthy,” she said.

In October 2020, Arrabawn Co-op recalled some batches of milk that were potentially unsafe because of Enterobacteriaceae bacteria.

Enterobacteriaceae are a group of bacteria, some of which can be harmful to humans. The test for them is used as an indicator of poor hygiene, process failure and/or post-processing contamination of heat processed foods. It does not necessarily confirm the presence of harmful bacteria.

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