-Audit slams food safety in small plants monitored by local authorities
Food safety controls implemented by local authorities on poultry producers have been strongly criticised in an audit by EU veterinary inspectors.
A report by the auditors claimed serious deficiencies in food safety control systems meant local authorities could not provide a guarantee that small, poultry-producing facilities met all relevant EU food safety requirements.
In Ireland, the Department of Agriculture is responsible for monitoring production at large poultry plants, but supervision of smaller poultry producers was carried out by local authorities.
Many of the audit’s critical findings were rejected by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) as being “factually incorrect”.
The FSAI also pointed out that producers monitored by local authorities only accounted for 0.2% of all poultry production in the Republic.
Inspectors from the EU Food and Veterinary Office who carried out the audit in Ireland last September said the condition of the majority of sites they visited under local authority control did not meet legal requirements.
Despite evidence of poor hygiene practice, they noted that such poultry producers still maintained approval to carry on their operations.
Among the problems identified were:
-The production of meat of different species was taking place without separation at one facility;
-No facility in a cold store for washing hands and no changing area;
-Doors of refrigerated containers were not pest-proof;
-A dog had free access to a cutting room;
-No sterilising equipment in a cutting room;
-Damaged packages of meat left on the floor and exposed to contamination in a dirty cold store.
The EU inspectors said “several serious non-compliances” had not been detected by local authority veterinary officials.
They also found reports by such officials did not reflect the actual situation in poultry plants.
Local authority inspectors were criticised for the lack of enforcement actions due to the non-reporting of non-compliances.
During the audit, EU officials found important EU food safety requirements were not met in three out of four poultry-producing facilities which they visited.
The audit concluded: “Overall, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland can guarantee the effectiveness of official controls in establishments supervised by the Department of Agriculture. However, this is not the case in establishments supervised by the local authorities.”
The EU audit noted that most local authorities only employed one county veterinary officer — and this individual carried out a range of functions, including the enforcement of food safety legislation.
They observed that such officials had “no hierarchical superior overseeing his work.
The EU auditors found deficiencies regarding the use of phosphate as an ingredient in one facility they visited.
The council’s veterinary inspector at the site had admitted that he was not aware of the relevant EU legislation on food additives.
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