A meat-cutting and processing establishment “misdescribed beef as lamb” in one instance, and the same establishment misdescribed non-Halal beef as Halal, according to a report recently published by the Food and Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI).

These were among a catalogue of non-compliances that food-safety inspectors uncovered during an audit of a range of businesses relating to food labelling and traceability standards.

The results of the audits on 27 establishments were published today in a report entitled: Audit of Food Business Operator Compliance with Meat Labelling and Traceability Requirements.

The report revealed that in one specialist retailer/butcher, “a large number of flies were noted in the retail and butchery areas”.

Flies were also observed on food contact surfaces and equipment, posing a risk of food contamination, according to the report.

At a foodservice establishment – described in the report as a “quick-serve restaurant” – a general claim that it only served 100% Irish chicken was found to be not entirely accurate.

“Upstream audit checks found that this claim was not valid as one meat product was produced using a mixture of Irish and other EU-origin chicken,” the report stated.

Non compliances at foodservice establishments, outside of the scope of the audit, was noted at an independent take-away that was audited including (but not limited to):

  • Evidence of rodent (mice) activity and flying insect activity;
  • Poor cleaning;
  • Food not protected against contamination;
  • Foods being held at unsafe temperatures;
  • Inadequate facilities for hand washing and lack of effective HACCP-based food safety management procedures.

As a result of the serious nature of the non compliance and the associated risk to public health, a closure order was served on that food business operator (FBO) by the FSAI requiring the immediate closure of the establishment.

The report outlined that the operator repeatedly failed to comply with the order, however, and was subsequently prosecuted.

Non-compliance with food law outside the planned scope of the audit at meat cutting and processing establishments also included:

  • Evidence of visible faecal contamination;
  • Extensive hair contamination was observed on health-marked carcases which had been accepted by an auditee following delivery/intake checks at a cutting plant.

Traceability at storage and distribution establishments

Serious non-compliances were also noted in relation to the traceability of material being stored on behalf of a customer – a poultry slaughterhouse – including the absence of appropriate identification marking, the report outlined.

Information sought – under regulation – by the FSAI audit team could not be provided, and the team concluded that the intake and dispatch controls, intended to ensure the traceability of such foods, were ineffective.

When material being stored on behalf of a poultry slaughterhouse was examined, it included food intended for human consumption and ‘category 3 ABP’ (animal by-products), not intended for human consumption.

The establishment was not registered for the storage of ABP and the food business operator (FBO) was unaware that the material in question was ABP as it had not been identified as such.

A supplementary inspection with the official agency was carried out at the poultry slaughterhouse, which consigned the material in question.

This inspection detected serious non compliances relating to identification and traceability of ABP including failure to complete required commercial documents.

The official agency served a compliance notice on the FBO of the slaughterhouse.

Meat cutting and processing establishment

Fourteen establishments undertaking cutting and/or processing of meat were selected for audit.

Ten of these were standalone establishments and four were co-located with slaughterhouses.

Non-compliance with traceability requirements was noted at six establishments, in three of these establishments the non-compliance was considered serious.

At one multi-species cutting plant serious non-compliances were noted including:

  • Incomplete intake records;
  • Discrepancies between the net quantities at intake of particular consignments of meat compared with the net quantities on hand and dispatched, resulting in the FBO being unable to reliably account for significant quantities of meat;
  • Meat not adequately labelled or identified to facilitate its traceability;
  • Complete customer address details not available;
  • Non-Halal beef, dispatched to a customer in another member state, misleadingly described as ‘Halal’ on associated commercial documents;
  • Lack of reliable traceability for meat returned from customer establishments.