The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has reported that, in collaboration with its official agencies, investigations were carried out into 47 unregistered food businesses in 2020, as compared to 19 in 2019, representing a 147% increase.
These unregistered food businesses were operating illegally without the knowledge or supervision of the competent authorities. Some of these food businesses were established in domestic kitchens or private dwellings with inadequate food safety processes, procedures and facilities in place, as a result of the temporary closure of the food business in which the people were employed due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
The food businesses were producing, processing or distributing various foods such as baked goods; eggs; ready-to-eat sushi products; poultry; and both raw and cooked meats.
Food law requires all food businesses to be notified to the relevant competent authority irrespective of the size or type of food business, prior to operating. This requirement ensures that food businesses will be registered and/or approved with the appropriate inspection agency to ensure food safety and protect consumer health. The food business owner is legally responsible for ensuring that the food they produce is safe to eat.
Following each investigation, the FSAI, in collaboration with the food inspectors, may take appropriate enforcement action to ensure consumer health is protected.
In 2020, five Closure Orders, five Compliance Notices and three Prohibition Orders were served on unregistered/unapproved food businesses. In addition to these, two warrants were obtained to gain access to unregistered food businesses running their business from a domestic dwelling.
The investigations also resulted in 17 tonnes of unfit and/or unsafe food taken off the market in Ireland.
Commenting today, Dr Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive, FSAI urged consumers to be vigilant and only purchase food from reputable food businesses.
“Consumers have a right to safe food and bogus operators seeking to make a quick profit at the risk of potentially making consumers sick or selling non-compliant or fraudulent foodstuffs will be pursued using the legal powers available to us.
“The vast majority of food businesses comply with their legal requirement to notify prior to operating; however, it is very concerning to see an increase in the number of unregistered food businesses found to be operating in 2020. There is no doubt that COVID-19 has presented many challenges for the food industry and for people working in the sector, however, this does not change the legal requirements which are in place to protect consumer health.
“All food business owners, big or small, whether trading from a business premises, in the home, from a mobile unit, food truck and/or online, must be aware of food hygiene and food safety legislation. It is totally unacceptable that some food businesses are choosing to operate outside of the law,” said Dr Byrne.
“Many of these unregistered food businesses are using social media platforms such as facebook, facebook marketplace, Adverts.ie, Done Deal and Instagram to advertise the sale and supply of their food products, and WhatsApp is also used by some for receiving orders.
“The FSAI and the food inspectors continue to monitor these sites and will take appropriate action, if unregistered food businesses are discovered. We would ask consumers that if they are in any doubt about a food business, they should contact us through our online complaint form www.fsai.ie/makeitbetter and we will follow up on this,” added Dr Byrne.
The FSAI has reiterated that anyone who is planning to open a food business should contact the FSAI for advice as to the correct procedures they must put in place to notify the relevant competent authority about their business, comply with food law and operate safely to ensure they can protect public health.
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