The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has voiced frustration at what it called “repeated, similar and fundamental” breaches of food law.
92 enforcement orders were served on businesses for violating food safety legislation in 2023, up from the 77 reported in 2022.
FSAI expressed disappointment at the increase and urged businesses to train staff appropriately and to ensure that premises are suitable for safe food production and storage.
In 2023, 76 closure orders, three improvement orders, and 13 prohibition orders were served on food firms. Six prosecutions were taken.
Examples of violations
Enforcement action was taken by environmental health officers in the HSE, local authority veterinary inspectors, and officers in the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority and from the FSAI.
Issues included inadequate food storage with the risk of contamination; a lack of pest control procedures such as monitoring and pest proofing; inadequate temperature control in food storage, preparation, and distribution; and insufficient staff training in food safety, personal hygiene, and recordkeeping.
Pamela Byrne, FSAI chief executive, said she had hoped to see a reduction in the levels of enforcement needed in 2023.
“While each of these enforcement orders was necessary for the protection of consumer health concerning food safety, we should not be seeing such breaches of food law occurring in food businesses at all,” she said.
“It is a legal obligation for food businesses to adhere to food safety regulations proactively. Each month, food safety inspectors find similar, basic, and fundamental breaches of food law, which are unacceptable. As we enter 2024, we urge food businesses to always prioritize and promote a culture of food safety in their businesses.”
Recent enforcement examples
Four closure orders and one prohibition order were served on businesses during December.
Reasons for such action included blood from raw ducks dripping onto ingredient bags and containers, with water and blood-soaked cloths left on food preparation surfaces; flies on raw ducks and equipment; floor, walls, shelves, equipment, and staff uniforms contaminated with water and blood from the sink; mold growth on structural and food contact surfaces; a cockroach infestation; absence of handwashing facilities; and no evidence of temperature monitoring.
Ten enforcement orders were issued in November. A range of problems were found such as evidence that people were living and sleeping in the food preparation area; no evidence to prove the business operator was trained in food safety; evidence that food infested by rodent droppings was placed on the market, and an establishment operating as a meat cutting plant, also producing meat products, without approval.
In early 2024, Fish Seafood Deli was convicted of several breaches of food safety law at a district court.
Following a prosecution taken by the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), the court imposed fines of €6,000 ($6,600).
The prosecution was taken after several inspections by Sea-Fisheries Protection Officers at the firm’s premises based in Carbery Enterprise Park, Cork, between February and May 2023.
The company pleaded guilty to eight charges for offenses, including non-compliance with food traceability requirements, failure to keep premises clean and in good repair, and failure to ensure waste products were stored correctly to prevent cross-contamination.
The court heard evidence showing the actions taken and resources spent by the business to address the non-compliances identified.
“Food safety law protects consumer health and confidence in the seafood sector. Compliance with requirements for food hygiene, premises, and traceability is key to ensuring that food on the market is safe. The convictions and fines imposed by the court emphasize the seriousness of non-compliance with food safety laws. The SFPA acknowledges the significant steps the food business took to address the issues detected in this case,” said an SFPA spokesperson.
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