EU concern over smaller poultry plants

Report says food safety system does not guarantee all EU requirements are met

The Department of Agriculture carries out controls in high-throughput factories slaughtering over 150,000 birds a year, while local authority inspectors do checks at low-throughput establishments.

The Department of Agriculture carries out controls in high-throughput factories slaughtering over 150,000 birds a year, while local authority inspectors do checks at low-throughput establishments.

Tue, Aug 12, 2014, 01:00

Major concerns about standards at smaller poultry processing plants have been raised in a European Commission report.

The report says the Department of Agriculture, which monitors larger poultry processing facilities, has a comprehensive and well-documented food safety control system in place. However, the effectiveness of its controls is weakened by “deficiencies” not detected during departmental controls and by inadequate postmortem inspection in some cases.

As for the control system implemented by local authorities in smaller establishments, the report says it does not guarantee all poultry sector establishments under their control meet all relevant EU requirements.

“In the majority of establishments visited by the audit team under local authority control, conditions did not meet the relevant EU requirements.”

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has overall responsibility for food safety but it manages this responsibility in specific sectors via service agreements with other bodies.

The Department of Agriculture carries out controls in high-throughput factories slaughtering over 150,000 birds a year, while local authority inspectors do checks at low-throughput establishments.

Overall, the FSAI can guarantee the effectiveness of official controls in establishments supervised by the department, the report states. “However, this is not the case in establishments supervised by the local authorities.”

In a number of establishments under local authority supervision auditors found major non-compliances.

Stunning equipment

In one slaughterhouse inspectors found a faulty gauge on water-bath stunning equipment as a result of which the operator could not guarantee birds were properly stunned.

In another one bird too small for the stunner was shackled instead of being killed by an alternative method.

Hygiene conditions were found to be adequate overall, but some deficiencies were noted.

These included the presence of rusty equipment, poor sanitary conditions and poor cleaning. A “non-permitted” food additive was found in an ingredient used in meat preparations in one establishment.

Other issues included inadequate size of the cutting room, no facilities in a cold store for washing hands and no changing area.

In one establishment there was insufficient protection of the workroom from external contamination and a dog had free access to the cutting room.

The department took issue with earlier drafts of the report, describing parts as factually inaccurate. In relation to the dog, it said that while the external door was open during dispatch, staff were moving in and out, thus preventing free access by the dog to the cutting room.

Meat production

The department says it is responsible for plants producing over 99 per cent of poultry meat, while the local authority- supervised establishments accounted for just 0.2 per cent of meat production.

The Irish poultry plants were audited last September by inspectors from the European Commission’s food and veterinary office.

Ireland produces over 115,000 tonnes of chicken meat and almost 10,000 tonnes of turkey meat a year.