The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has published its Annual Report for 2011. The headline figures show that 371 Enforcement Orders were issued in 2011 (an increase on the 2010 figure of 326) and 10 food businesses were successfully prosecuted (down on the number of prosecutions taken in 2010). Two food businesses operated in contravention of Closure Orders and the FSAI obtained High Court orders against the defaulting organisations.
The breakdown of the Enforcement Orders issued by the authorities is: Improvement Notices (287), Closure Orders (66), Prohibition Orders (11) and Improvement Orders (7).
The service sector, which includes take-away premises and restaurants, received the most Closure Orders in 2011. This type of order is issued when the condition of the food premises is such that there is or there is likely to be a grave and immediate danger to public health. It is often the case that the decline in standards has occurred over a period of time during which the problems have not been identified and/or rectified. This is indicative of failings in the systems and procedures in place and owners and managers should take steps to keep their food businesses clean and tidy and operate to proper standards of hygiene.
The FSAI handled 396 food incidents in 2011, an increase of 12% on the number of incidents dealt with in 2010. Preliminary information indicates that there were eight outbreaks of illness associated with food as a result of which 69 people became ill, 3 of whom required hospitalisation.
Campaigns by the FSAI and others have informed consumers about their right to complain about substandard activities in the food industry. The 2011 report seems to suggest that consumers are not shy about making complaints. During 2011 the FSAI received 2,415 complaints mainly about unfit food, suspected food poisoning and poor standards of hygiene. Each complaint is a potential cause of concern for food businesses because they are followed up by Environmental Health Officers who will visit food premises to carry out investigations into the subject-matter of the complaint and any other incidents of non-compliance that are found.