Second worst year for food closure orders in Republic

‘Shocking’ conditions still found in food preparation businesses, says regulator

Restaurants and food businesses are still being closed down temporarily because of the most basic lapses in hygiene, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has said.

While final figures are not yet available for this year, it will be the second worst year on record for the number of closure and other enforcement orders issued.

Some 113 orders were served up until December 23rd, compared with 143 enforcement orders in 2013, which was the highest number to date. In 2012, 109 orders were issued.

Dr Bernard Hegarty, the authority's director of service contracts, said environmental health officers were still finding "shocking conditions" in some premises.


“We’re seeing places where inspectors are finding evidence of pest infestations, of cockroaches, rodents and so on. Really there’s no excuse for that,” he said. “And that’s really not where a business should be if it wants to protect the safety and health of its customers.”

He said there were about 48,000 food businesses in the State “so we are still looking at quite small numbers of breaches” but there was no excuse for these breaches.

Most learn lesson

The authority's service contracts manager, Gail Carroll, said getting served with an enforcement order was a one-off experience for most businesses and they learned their lesson.

However, there were other premises that bumped along at the lower end of acceptability and ended up being served with notices. She said these repeat offenders were being targeted by environmental health officers for increased inspections to ensure they broke this pattern.

Recruitment moratorium

However, the moratorium on public sector recruitment has affected the number of inspections being carried out. The number of staff employed by the Health Service Executive’s environmental health service fell

19 per cent between 2009 and 2013.

Ethnic food businesses accounted for more than half of the orders issued this year. Dr Hegarty said the FSAI was providing training initiatives focusing on sectors such as ethnic restaurants.

“We do continue to see enforcement orders served against some ethnic food premises,” he said.

“The interesting thing is when we analysed the orders last year we found that a lot of the orders were lifted quite shortly after they were served. Most orders do get lifted within a week. So it shows that management, when they focus on this and take it seriously under the pressure of a closure order, can make those changes and get the order lifted.”

Alison Healy

Alison Healy

Alison Healy is a contributor to The Irish Times