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Video: How does the food safety inspection process work in Ireland?

There are around 50,000 food points of sale in the country with just 300 inspectors to ensure that they meet food safety standards.

Image: EuroparlTV via YouTube

AS THE CHAOS surrounding the horsemeat scandal dies down, Ireland’s food safety inspectors are looking at new testing practices to ensure it does not happen again.

With just 300 inspectors for some 50,000 food points of sale in the country, it falls to environmental health officers to assess the risk at retail and catering establishments and decide where testing should be conducted.

Speaking to EuroparlTV, environmental health officer Lisa Fitzpatrick said several factors are taken into consideration such as “the level of activity taking place on the site, if it’s a highly processed product, the type of food that’s being prepared, the operation of scale and whether or not its serving to a vulnerable group such as the young or the elderly”.

Particular attention is paid to the origin of products, especially now, as well as their storage conditions.

“The idea of traceability is that you must be able to go one step back, so you must be able to know where you’re getting your food from and then you must be able to find out, obviously, if you’re supplying another food business operator, who you’re giving your food to,” Fitzpatrick said.

Microbiological tests are carried out at random on certain processed products to check if the food presents any risk to public health. These tests look for pathogens such as salmonella, listeria and E.coli but DNA tests were not widespread before the horsemeat scandal.

“Before we would have very much looked at food safety, food hygiene, food safety management systems,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s a new area within food safety and food security that we have to look at and we will now do so with routine DNA testing. Throughout the month of March, Environmental Health will be taking 50 samples at retail and catering level for this very reason”.

Director of Consumer Protection at the Food Safety Authority, Raymond Ellard, said food control services in Ireland will now have to reconsider how they do their job “and look and think like a criminal thinks”.

He said they must look at where criminals’ opportunities to make money at consumers’ expenses lie and then “react accordingly.”

“I think there will be a greater emphasis on food fraud over the coming years,” he added.
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– Video used with the permission of EuroparlTV.

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