The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI)

What is the Food Safety Authority?

Prompted by the huge variety of food and food outlets now available in Ireland and the spread of food-borne bugs like E-Coli and Salmonella, a Food Safety Authority was established in Ireland in 1999.

The FSAI was set up as a statutory, independent and science-based body, overseeing all functions relating to the regulation of the food industry. This means they are established to oversee the safety of food from ‘farm to fork’.

The Authority is dedicated to protecting public health and consumer interests in the area of food safety and hygiene. It comes under the aegis of the Minister for Health and Children and currently has a five-member board. It also has a 15 member Scientific Committee that assists and advises the Board. Therefore, decisions relating to food safety and hygiene take account of the latest and best scientific advice and information available.

Part of food safety is informing the public about how to handle food properly. In July 2000 the FSAI launched its first ever poster campaign. Designed around the slogan, 'Poor Hygiene — Don’t Accept It', the campaign was aimed at the general public. In the summer months, with the rise in temperatures, there is usually an increase in food poisoning. By warning the public to be on the lookout for poor hygiene in establishments that serve food and to complain about this, the FSAI aims to reduce the level of food-related illness.

What does the Authority do?

The most important role of the Food Safety Authority is to ensure that food produced, distributed or marketed in Ireland meets the highest standards of food safety and hygiene. Obviously, this includes making sure that food complies with any legal requirements, such as the marking and storage of beef, for example.

The Authority has all the necessary powers to follow the food chain as far back as is necessary in order to deal with any situation giving rise to concerns about the safety and hygiene of food. Its officers have full powers to enter premises, seize documents and samples, issue improvement notices and closure orders and to prohibit the sale of food considered unfit for human consumption.

The FSAI also works alongside the food industry, training professionals to improve, harmonise and co-ordinate food safety and hygiene training throughout the country. The Authority aims to educate those in the food industry and the general public about how food should be handled, stored, transported and prepared.

The FSAI publishes an annual report, which goes before each House of the Oireachtas. This is aimed at creating a much greater degree of transparency and information about food safety generally and the operation of the inspection system in particular. 

The Authority does not have any role in relation to the commercial developments in the food industry.

A comprehensive range of information and literature on all aspects of food safety is available at the FSAI’s Information Centre, Block E, Abbey Court, Lower Abbey Street, Dublin 1.

The Authority operates a Food Safety Helpline on 1890 33 66 77 that provides information and advice on all aspects of food safety.

Information can also be obtained from RTE television on Aertel, page 667, or on the website — www.fsai.ie

I’ve been food poisoned — Can the FSAI help?

If you are ill and suspect that this related to something you have eaten, you should attend your GP, or in an emergency your local hospital A+E department.

If you were poisoned by food that you were served or purchased in Ireland, then you should contact the environmental officer of your local Health Board, who acts as an investigating agent for the FSAI. The environmental officer will follow up any complaint made about public food poisoning.

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