EC audit finds deficiencies in meat and milk plants
Cleanliness and maintenance issues found in European Commission audit, writes PAUL CULLEN
MOULD ON walls, rusty structures, peeling paint and broken fixtures have been found by European Commission inspectors during an audit of Irish meat and milk plants.
The audit found systematic shortcomings in the way meat establishments were inspected for cleanliness and proper maintenance, and criticised a failure to address long-standing deficiencies in two of the eight establishments visited. In one dairy establishment, “immediate food safety risks” were identified by officials from the commission’s Food and Veterinary Office, while in another, product was wrongly labelled.
While hygiene controls for the production of meat and milk products were found to be “generally satisfactory”, the report says enforcement powers have not been consistently and appropriately used to address long-standing deficiencies. A lack of official controls over compliance by dairy businesses with hygiene requirements for milk coming from herds under tuberculosis restrictions was also noted.
The main objective of the audit was to check on what actions the Irish authorities had taken in response to a critical audit five years earlier. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland has undertaken to implement the recommendations in the report.
In two of the eight establishments visited, inspectors found long-standing deficiencies were not addressed in a timely manner. One related to “extensive maintenance issues” in a meat establishment. The other concerned a dairy plant in which the authorities issued eight food alerts for listeria in six months but none of the measures taken had adequately addressed the problems.
In addition, one recommendation from a previous report, in relation to testing for trichinella (roundworm), has still not been implemented.
In most of the establishments, chemical analysis of potable water from private wells was not carried out as required under EU regulations, yet no enforcement action was taken by the authorities.
Maintenance was not adequate in two of the four meat plants visited and there were deficiencies in the other two. In one establishment, “important and long-standing deficiencies”, such as rusty structures, peeling paint and broken fixtures, were identified in the slaughter hall. Cleaning and disinfection processes were deficient in a significant number of establishments and in one there were no facilities for cleaning knives.
Inspectors who visited one pig slaughterhouse found walls covered with mould and rusty structures, while another premises used for slaughtering horses was too small for the purpose.
Misleading labelling of product was found in one establishment. The product, which was produced and packed in the factory, was labelled as coming from a different food business in the UK.
During on-the-spot visits, officials were found to be unaware of the latest amendments to legislation on official controls.