The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) uncovered non-compliance in several food businesses during an audit of meat labelling and traceability standards.

The audit led to 10 enforcement actions being taken against six food-business operators.

The food businesses included supermarkets; butchers; foodservice establishments; storage and distribution establishments; meat-processing plants; and slaughterhouses.

A total of 27 unannounced, on-site audits were conducted on establishments with a particular emphasis on checking compliance with meat labelling and traceability requirements.

The results of the audit, which took place between August 2021 and March 2022, were published today (Tuesday, May 31) in an FSAI report entitled: Audit of Food Business Operator Compliance with Meat Labelling and Traceability Requirements.

In a bit more detail:

  • Six retail establishments, supervised by the Health Service Executive, included: two large supermarkets (one national chain and one international chain); a cash and carry; a traditional butcher (co-located with a low-capacity slaughterhouse, separately supervised by a local authority); a specialist retailer/butcher and a small retailer;
  • Ten businesses included standalone meat cutting and/or processing establishments, five supervised by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) and four by local authorities;
  • Five slaughterhouses – three supervised by the DAFM and two supervised by local authorities – were also visited. One of the local authority supervised slaughterhouses was designated a ‘low-capacity slaughterhouse’ as defined by Article 2 of Regulation (EU) 2019/624; four slaughterhouses were co-located with cutting and/or processing operations; and one was co-located with a traditional retail butcher, separately supervised by the HSE. Three slaughterhouses processed red meat and two processed poultry meat.

The audit reviewed the availability, accuracy and appropriateness of information provided on labels and information for non-pre-packed meat products.

Key results from the report include:

  • Non-compliance with labelling requirements for pre-packed food was detected in 18 of the establishments audited and five of these establishments had serious non-compliance;
  • Non-compliance with food information requirements for non-pre-packed foods (in retail and foodservice settings) was detected during audits of five establishments. One of these five establishments had a serious non-compliance;
  • Non-compliance with traceability requirements was detected during audits of 10 establishments. Five of these 10 establishments had serious non-compliance;
  • Non-compliance with other aspects of food law, outside the planned scope of the audit, was also detected during audits of 17 of the establishments. At 14 of these 17 establishments, the non-compliance was considered serious.

Corrective action reports have been issued to all the food businesses where non-compliance was detected, according to the FSAI.

Good practices were noted at some businesses during the audit, the report stated, including routine DNA speciation testing, the elective use of short supply chains for meat ingredients and retention of digital records of labels, commercial documents and traceability records.

As mentioned, the audit led to 10 formal enforcement actions by the food inspectorate of the FSAI against six food-business operators.

Some 14 recommendations were also made to strengthen compliance with food law, including instructing businesses to ensure that foods are labelled accurately.

Another recommendation advised that compliance with traceability requirements should be improved and that food businesses should avail of the resources to assist them.

It was also advised that food businesses minimise food waste by considering whether a ‘use-by’ date or ‘best-before’ date should be applied to labels of pre-packed frozen foods.

Pamela Byrne, chief executive, FSAI, reminded food businesses that ensuring labelling and traceability legal requirements is key to safeguarding the health and interests of consumers.

“While good practices were observed in some of the food businesses, disappointingly, this audit found that there was a varying degree of compliance by food businesses with meat labelling and traceability requirements.

“Fortunately, serious non-compliance with these requirements was confined to a small number of businesses. It is also disappointing that serious non-compliance outside the planned scope of the audit was observed at many of the businesses audited.

She said consumers have a right to safe food and their health and interests must be paramount to everything that food businesses do.