The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has today (8th January 2013) announced a 30% increase in the number of enforcement orders issued in 2012. In the calendar year 2012, the food authorities issued a total of 109 enforcement orders compared with 84 orders that had been issued in 2011.
Concluding its monthly review of enforcement action, the FSAI reported that seven Closure Orders and one Prohibition Order were issued in December 2012. In the same month the Health Service Executive successfully prosecuted two food businesses for breaches of food legislation and fines and costs exceeding €5,000.00 were imposed by the District Court.
Commenting on the 2012 figures Professor Alan Reilly, Chief Executive, FSAI said, “Compared to 2011, we saw a substantial increase in the number of Enforcement Orders served last year, making 2012 the highest year for enforcements to date. This increase is extremely disappointing and serves as an unfortunate reminder that there continues to be food business operators who put consumers’ health at risk by not complying with their legal obligations for food safety and hygiene.”
The increase in the numbers may be due to a drop in standards, an increase in enforcement activity by the regulators or a combination of the two. Whatever the reason, the message for food businesses is very clear. Failure to comply can lead to very serious consequences for the business in terms of the financial cost and time taken to respond to enforcement action or in defending a criminal prosecution.
A major consequence of being the subject of official enforcement action is the damage caused to the reputation of the business and its brand. Although this can be difficult to quantify there is little doubt that it can have a significant effect on a business particularly a small business in a location where there is already very keen competition for customers.
In addition to protecting their businesses, food business operators have a legal and moral obligation to protect the health and safety of their consumers. This can be jeopardised by failing to maintain proper hygiene standards or supplying unsafe food.
Ian Thomas Associates has significant experience of working with food businesses of all sizes to help them become compliant with their legal and regulatory obligations and to help them respond swiftly and effectively to any actual or threatened enforcement action or criminal prosecution.