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Food Safety Authority of Ireland

Information

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) was established as a statutory body by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland Act, 1998. Its mission is "to protect consumers' health by ensuring that food consumed, distributed, marketed or produced in Ireland meets the highest standards of food safety and hygiene". It is the main co-ordinating body for food safety, co-ordinating the food safety activities of a range of bodies including the Health Service Executive (HSE), local authorities and Government departments.

The Authority promotes, encourages and fosters high standards of safety and hygiene at all stages of the food chain from primary production to final use by the customer ("from farm to fork"). Its promotion and inspection activities are aimed at bringing about an acceptance that primary responsibility for the safety of food rests with producers, manufacturers, distributors, retailers and caterers. The Authority must consult with consumers as well as people in all aspects of the food business in order to promote high standards.

Structure of the FSAI

The board of the Authority

The board of the Authority is appointed by the Minister for Health. It has overall responsibility for ensuring that the proper food safety systems are in place.

Consultative Council

The authority has established a broadly based and representative Food Safety Consultative Council. The Minister for Health; the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine; the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government and the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the board of the Authority nominate the membership of this council. While the Authority must have regard to the council's views, it is not be bound by these views in arriving at its decisions.

The scientific committee

The scientific committee is appointed by the Minister for Health in consultation with the board. The Minister, in appointing members, must have regard to relevant scientific qualifications and experience to ensure the broadest possible range of expertise.

The scientific committee advises on matters referred to it by the board relating to scientific or technical questions, food inspection and nutrition. In order to guarantee the science-based nature of the Authority, the board gets the scientific committee's response before deciding any matter referred but is not bound by it.

All board members, scientific committee members, consultants and senior staff are obliged to make a declaration of interests to try to ensure that there is no conflict of interest.

Main activities of the FSAI

The main activities of the FSAI are:

  • Co-ordinating food safety control programmes.
  • Inspecting, approving, licensing and registering premises involved in food production and distribution at manufacturing, wholesale and retail levels.
  • Auditing food safety activities in Ireland to ensure best practices are being observed.
  • Linking up with the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (formerly known as the National Disease Surveillance Centre), the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to gather relevant data on human and animal infections. This is to identify the current public health priorities and emerging problems so that control measures can be targeted appropriately.
  • Providing education and advice for all, from primary producers to consumers, on how to prevent foodborne illness.
  • Linking with the Department of Health's Health Promotion Unit and existing bodies in the area, to provide advice on matters such as nutrition, food technology, industrial practices, the cultivation of food plants and animals, food labelling and packaging and on improving systems for the communication of information to the public on food safety and hygiene in the home.

Service contracts

The FSAI may exercise its authority directly or by service contracts with 47 other agencies. It has entered into service contracts with the local authorities; the Health Service Executive (HSE); the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and the National Consumer Agency.

Each service contract includes the targets and objectives that the Authority wishes the agency to meet and the timeframe within which these must be achieved. The Authority has published details of the contracts and has a system of monitoring to ensure the contracts are being adhered to. If contracts are not satisfactorily performed, the Authority reports to the Minister for Health who will arrange for such reports to be laid before the Oireachtas.

The Authority is obliged to keep the food inspection activities under review and must report, at least annually, to the relevant Minister or agency on the scope for better co-ordination and delivery of the food inspection services.

The FSAI has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland to co-operate in the monitoring of radioactivity levels in food.

Rules

Enforcement of food safety standards

The Authority has the power to carry out the following in order to determine compliance with food legislation:

  • The inspection, approval, licensing or registration of premises and equipment, including premises or equipment used in connection with the manufacture, processing, disposal, transport and storage of food
  • The inspection, sampling, and analysis of food and food including food ingredients
  • The inspection and analysis of food labelling

The FSAI carries out its enforcement role by means of service contracts with the official agencies.

In order to maintain full traceability, the Authority's remit includes farms, other places of primary production, water treatment plants and any other source of materials used in food production.

The authority has a wide ranging power to seek reports from any State body on a matter that, in its opinion, impinges on food safety and to report to the Minister for Health.

Authorised officers

The Authority has authorised officers who have extensive powers to enter and inspect food premises, to secure these premises for later inspection, to inspect and, if necessary, remove records. These officers may take samples of food or related materials and have these samples analysed and it is an offence for any person to obstruct an officer in carrying out this duty.

The authorised officers are the staff of the various agencies involved in food safety, including Environmental Health Officers from the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Improvement notices

Where an authorised officer is of the view that any premises or activity poses a threat to public health, he/she has the power to set out the action required to remedy the situation and set a time limit for its completion. The officer may serve an "improvement notices", which is binding on the recipient. Improvement notices are used where there is clear need for some remedial action but where a complete shut-down of operations may not be warranted. Where an improvement notice is not complied with, the officer may seek an order from the District Court to force compliance - this is known as an Improvement Order.

Closure order

In more serious cases, where the officer believes there is an immediate and grave threat to public health, a closure order may be made. This means that the operation must cease until the problem has been remedied.

Prohibition Order

In cases where unsafe products or product batches have been distributed by the producer and are on the market, authorised officers may insist on the withdrawal, recall, detention and supervised destruction of products posing a threat to public health - they issue Prohibition Orders in these cases.

Prosecutions

Breaches of the food safety laws may be prosecuted by the FSAI or any of the agencies involved.

Promotion of food safety

The FSAI provides information and advice on a whole range of food safety issues, including foodborne diseases and risks and how to prevent food poisoning. Information is available from the address below or from the FSAI website. That site also has details of Alert Notifications and product recalls as well as Codes of Practice that have been agreed with various food producers. There are also guidance notes for retailers on the food safety laws and advice for consumers and the food industry.

Food safety assurance schemes

The Authority may, either on its own initiative or in co-operation with food producers' representatives, establish schemes to protect consumer interests. These "food safety assurance schemes" cover the promotion of best practice and preparation of guidelines on raw materials, processing, packaging, preparation, storage and handling.

Where To Apply

Food Safety Authority of Ireland

Abbey Court
Lower Abbey Street
Dublin 1
Ireland

Tel:+353 1 8171300
Locall:1890 336677
Fax:+353 1 8171301
Homepage: http://www.fsai.ie
Email: info@fsai.ie

Page updated: 15 September 2010

Language

Gaeilge

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