Official controls in the egg sector work well but there are a few minor issues, according to a report published by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI).

An audit in November 2021 covered official controls on the table egg production chain including egg collection, transporting, packing, warehousing, and distribution and retail sale.

The main objective was to assess effectiveness of controls by the Poultry and Egg Section of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM). A secondary aim was to ensure compliance by selected businesses with food law.

The audit found there is an organized system of official controls to verify requirements of food law and marketing standards for businesses involved in the table egg industry.

Risk-based checks
Documented procedures on how official controls are carried out are in place, however some of them refer to legislation which has been revoked or replaced and may not accurately describe the control practices currently used. This is to be changed by the end of 2022.

Official controls across the table egg industry are done according to the level of risk and whether those involved in checks are suitably qualified and trained. Eggs must be delivered to the consumer within a maximum of 21 days of laying, according to EU rules.

Depending on business type, risk categories include scale of the operation, whether the business is registered with the Bord Bia Quality Assurance Scheme and history of compliance. It also depends on whether more than one system is in operation, such as organic, free range, barn, or caged eggs and on the authorized officers’ experience of the business.

Rating categories are from zero to six. A combination of the risk and rating scores results in an inspection categorization of low, medium or high. Businesses listed as low are inspected once per year, medium twice per year and high at three times per year.

Records of official controls are maintained and a copy is given to food businesses. The inspection outcome is either compliant or non-compliant. Non-compliant ones are further categorized as minor, moderate or major.

Onsite findings
The audit team assessed food law in eight operations. Four were inspected to check compliance with marketing standards.

Businesses included a retailer, multiple central distribution centers, a wholesaler, and a vending machine operator. Four companies were inspected which varied in size from large commercial sites to small domestic operations, one of which was an organic producer.

One file was from an egg packing center which was no longer operating. However, the firm still had a registration number and was on the register of food businesses, despite the fact it had been closed for a long time.

Auditors found there is no procedure whereby DAFM revokes the registration of a packing center which is no longer in operation, when the company fails to complete the form notifying DAFM the business has closed. Such a system should be in place by the end of September this year.

Eggs examined in each packing center were stamped and had the required information on the method of farming being organic, free range, barn or caged, the country of origin and, if produced in the Republic of Ireland, the county identification, and producer code. Each egg had its best-before date, as part of the stamp. Outer packaging evaluated provided mandatory information on class, size, egg packing center code, and best-before date.

One small food business had recently constructed a new building as part of an expansion. Several issues were identified including some records kept for the food safety management system were not accurate; the scales used to determine egg grade by weight were not calibrated and; pest control records were not maintained.

The vending machine operator had told the DAFM inspector that he had six machines in operation during a recent control. However, at the time of the audit he had 10 machines. There is no requirement in the registration process to maintain an up-to-date list of machines that are introduced or stopped. This is to be changed by the end of July. FSAI said this was necessary to help the traceability of all eggs placed on the market.

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