42 enforcement orders served on food businesses in 2020

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has confirmed that 42 enforcement orders were served on food businesses for breaches in food safety legislation in 2020.

This is a decrease of 67% in comparison to 125 enforcement orders served in 2019, the authority noted.

The drop in numbers has been attributed largely to the impact of Covid-19, “where large numbers of food service businesses were temporarily closed for long periods throughout the year, and is not necessarily due to improved food safety practices”, the organisation said.

The FSAI reiterated the importance of robust food safety management systems and stressed that the legal responsibility lies with food businesses to ensure that the food they sell is compliant with food safety legislation and is safe to eat.

Between January 1, and December 31, 2020, 31 closure orders, two improvement orders and nine prohibition orders were issued by environmental health officers in the Health Service Executive (HSE), veterinary inspectors in the local authorities and officers of the FSAI on food businesses throughout the country.

The types of recurring food safety issues that led to enforcement orders in 2020 were: unregistered and unsupervised food businesses; filthy conditions; evidence of rodent infestations and rodent droppings; the presence of cockroaches; failure to maintain temperatures of foodstuffs; unsuitable food storage facilities; and improper or lack of water facilities.

Commenting on the annual figures, Dr. Pamela Byrne, chief executive of the FSAI, stressed the serious nature of a food business being served an enforcement order.

“While in a normal year it would be very encouraging to see such a substantial drop in the need for enforcement orders, in 2020, however it is likely that most of the reduction reflects the temporary closure of food businesses for many months due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“Notwithstanding this, 42 enforcement orders are still too many, as it shows that, unfortunately, there continues to be a minority of food businesses not complying with their legal requirements.

All food businesses must recognise that they are legally bound to ensure that the food they produce is safe to eat. Consumers have a right to safe food.

“Food businesses must comply with food law and all breaches of food safety legislation will be dealt with to the full extent of the law,” Dr. Byrne concluded.