Ian Thomas Associates

Food law enforcement figures for 2023 – how to avoid being another statistic

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland has published figures to show that in 2023, 92 enforcement orders were served on food businesses in Ireland. This compares unfavourably with the figures for 2002 (77), 2021 (59) and 2020 (42) but is below the figures for 2019 (125) and 2018 (110).

In addition, during 2023, six prosecutions were taken against non-compliant food businesses.

Issuing formal enforcement notices or bringing prosecutions is often not the first time a compliance issue has been raised with the food business. Officials conducting food inspections will identify issues of concern that create risks to consumers’ health and inform the business that action is required.

The business can then either act on that advice and make changes or if they choose not to the food inspectors (e.g. Environmental Health Officers – EHOs) have a range of powers that can be deployed to bring a business up to scratch. These include an improvement notice (requiring the business to improve its standards), a prohibition order (prohibiting the sale of specified product) and a closure order (which prevents the business from trading and can take effect immediately).

Those orders must not be ignored because failure to comply can lead to court action to secure compliance and in appropriate circumstances a prosecution might follow.

How can a business avoid being served with an enforcement order?

  1. Food business operators (FBOs) are responsible for ensuring that food law is complied with in their businesses.
  2. FBOs must have a detailed understanding of each part of their business and which rules and obligations apply at each stage.
  3. Competent people (in-house or external consultants) must be engaged to create documented food safety management systems and ensure they are implemented.
  4. Train staff to do their jobs competently and safely. Explain why it is necessary to do a task in a particular way and what happens if they don’t do so.
  5. Focus on the importance of food safety in everything the business does.
  6. Lead from the top. Create a food safety culture in which everyone in the business (management and workers) does the right thing all the time so that it becomes second nature.
  7. Listen to your competent people and act on their recommendations. Read and action previous reports (particularly those from the EHO). If there is a problem, deal with it. Ignoring it is a recipe for disaster and puts the business and consumers at risk.

Ian Thomas is a lawyer practising in Ireland and in England and Wales. He is very experienced in advising and representing food businesses across a wide range of food related matters and if we can help to solve your issues or advise on your compliance obligations please get in touch – ian@ianthomasassociates.com.

This article is for information purposes only and does not constitute the provision of legal advice. You should always take independent legal advice in respect of any legal or regulatory issues you may be having.

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