The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (“the FSAI”) has announced that 106 Enforcement Orders were served on food businesses for breaches in food safety legislation in 2016, equalling the same amount for 2015. The FSAI underlined the importance of food safety practices and reaffirmed that the responsibility rests with food businesses to ensure that the food they sell is compliant with food safety legislation and is safe to eat. The FSAI also stressed that all food businesses must have a detailed food safety management system in place and are legally obliged to have HACCP (Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Point) based procedures in place.
Between 1st January and 31st December 2016, food inspectors served 94 Closure Orders, 3 Improvement Orders and 9 Prohibition Orders on food businesses throughout the country. The types of recurring food safety issues which lead to Enforcement Orders are:
- poor cleaning and sanitation of premises;
- poor personal hygiene;
- lack of running water;
- inadequate hand washing facilities;
- incorrect food storage;
- lack of or ineffective pest control programme;
- structural problems arising from lack of ongoing maintenance; and,
- lack of/or an inadequate food safety management system.
During the month of December 2016, four Closure Orders, one Prohibition Order and two successful prosecutions were served on Irish food businesses for breaches of food safety legislation, pursuant to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland Act, 1998 (“the Act”) and the EC (Official Control of Foodstuffs) Regulations, 2010. The Enforcement Orders were issued by environmental health officers (“EHO’s”) in the Health Service Executive (HSE) and by the FSAI.
Enforcement is dealt with under Part IV of the Act. Inspections are provided for under Section 50 of the Act and are usually carried out by an EHO who is an ‘authorised officer’ under the Act. An authorised officer is defined under Section 49 of the Act as a person appointed in writing by the Board or Chief Executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland or by an official agency which has entered into a service contract with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. Section 50(1) provides these authorised officers with a suite of powers of inspection in order to carry out their function.
Upon an inspection, if circumstances warrant the service of an enforcement notice under Sections 52, 53 or 54 of the Act, such will be a matter for the professional judgment of the authorised officer in consultation with a designated officer. A designated officer is defined as a person who has been designated by the FSAI for the purposes of consultations as described in Sections 52, 53 and 54 of the Act.
The various Notices and Orders that can be served under the Act are as follows:
- Improvement Notice (Section 52) – requires a food business to implement certain improvements in a specified time period.
- Closure Order (Section 53) – requires the closure of a food business unless and until specific improvements are made.
- Prohibition Order (Section 54) – directs the withdrawal from the market of specific food products.
Commenting on the annual figures, Dr Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive, FSAI stressed the serious nature of a food business being served an Enforcement Order.
“Enforcements and most especially Closure Orders and Prohibition Orders are never served for minor food safety breaches. They are served on food businesses only when a serious risk to consumer health has been identified or where there are a number of ongoing breaches of food legislation and that largely tends to relate to serious and grave hygiene or other operational issues. There is no excuse for careless food safety practices. Food inspectors are encountering the same issues time and time again. The typical reasons why Enforcement Orders have to be served are easily avoidable. While the vast majority of food businesses are compliant with food safety legislation, we still continue to face negligent practices that are potentially putting consumer’s health at risk.”
Dr Byrne urged food businesses to take full advantage of the information and support provided by food inspectors and the FSAI to ensure that they have the correct food safety management systems in place. If any food business owner is unsure of what is required of them by law, they can contact the FSAI advice line at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit its website or facebook page.
Details of the food businesses served with Enforcement Orders are published on the FSAI’s website at www.fsai.ie. Closure Orders and Improvement Orders remain listed on the website for a period of three months from the date of when a premises is adjudged to have corrected its food safety issue, with Prohibition Orders being listed for a period of one month.