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Written Answers - Food Safety Standards

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 755 No. 1

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 194. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan  asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney  [192] the extent to which the quality of food and food products imported to Ireland or other EU countries complies with food processing husbandry and hygiene regulations applicable here and throughout the EU; the number of breaches of any such regulations in each of the past three years to date in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7456/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Regulation (EC) No. 178 of 2002, which sets out the general principles and requirements of EU food law, stipulates among other things, that food business operators at all stages of production, processing and distribution within the businesses under their control must ensure that foods satisfy the requirements of food law and that these requirements are met. In regard to traceability the regulations require that the operator must have systems in place to be able to identify any person from whom they have been supplied with a food. They must also have a system in place to identify the businesses to which their product has been supplied.

Food of Animal Origin

For their import from non-EU countries, food products of animal origin are required to meet the relevant requirements of EU food law that are operated in third countries or regions of third countries or conditions recognised by the EU to be at least equivalent. The EU’s Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) carries out an assessment of third countries wishing to export these products to the EU and submits for Commission approval those where the responsible authorities can provide appropriate guarantees as regards compliance or equivalence with Community feed and food law and animal health rules. Third countries and their establishments that are approved to export are audited and inspected by the FVO with regard to these guarantees and reports of the findings of inspections are published on its website.

All products of animal origin for human consumption imported into the EU from third countries must be inspected at an approved Border Inspection Post (BIP). The products undergo documentary, identity (traceability) and physical examinations to ensure that they comply with relevant EU and national legislation. Imports must be accompanied by health certification provided by the competent authorities of the country of origin. The FVO also approves third-country meat processing establishments wishing to export to the EU and audits Member States’ import controls for products from third countries.

When all import controls have been satisfied, compliant consignments may then be imported and placed on the single market, where they are treated the same as other compliant products and subject to the EU’s Food Hygiene Regulations. In meat establishments in Ireland which operate under the approval of my Department, the same level of supervision is afforded to both imported and locally produced product. Veterinary inspectors ensure that meat coming into supervised premises must be from an approved source, whether locally produced or imported.

The following table gives details of BIP checks on imports of food of animal origin in the years 2009 to 2011:

Year The number of consignments of food of animal origin undergoing BIP checks in Ireland Total number failing BIP checks Of which:- the number failing Documentary Checks - the number failing Identity Checks - the number failing Physical Checks Of which:- the total number returned to the country of origin - the total number destroyed
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7
2009 1,191 16 10 3 3 16 0
2010 1,150 25 13 12 0 15 10
2011 1,232 7 2 5 0 6 1

Columns 3, 4 and 5 describe Column 2 in terms of the reasons for rejection.

Columns 5 and 6 indicate the fate of these rejected consignments.

Non-Animal Food Products

Food safety import controls on plant products for human consumption are co-ordinated by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI). I am advised by the FSAI that there are controls in place at points of import for products of non-animal origin. These controls are carried out by the Environmental Health Officers Service of the Health Service Executive. There are specialized port health officers in the main port areas of Dublin, Cork and Shannon. Similar to all EU member states, products of non-animal origin which have not been identified as posing a particular risk can be imported into the European Union through any point of entry without prior notification to the competent authorities. These products would be subject to routine random checks (documentary, identity, physical) at the point of entry to ensure that they comply with EU legislation relevant to the product being imported.

These products are subject to the same rules and controls as other products on the Irish market once they have been released by the Revenue Customs Service for free circulation. Products of non-animal origin produced in other member states can freely circulate in Ireland and are subject to the same controls on the market as similar products produced in Ireland. Certain products of non-animal origin from Third Countries (i.e. outside the European Economic Area) which have a known or emerging risk are subject to increased levels of control depending on the risk posed. Most of these now require prior notification to a designated point of entry. For Ireland these are Dublin Sea Port and Dublin Airport. Some require pre-entry documentation including Common Entry Document, health certification and certificates of analysis to show compliance with relevant EU legislation. Some require specific checks i.e. identity and physical checks including sampling by the Irish competent authorities on some or all of the consignments. In general, these products cannot be released for free circulation / placed on the market until they have favourable results. All consignments which are subject to increased controls or emergency measures must be inspected at the point of entry into the EU. The same requirements apply in all member states.

There are essentially three levels of official controls for the import from Third Countries of food products of non-animal origin set down in EU legislation:

1. Routine official controls under Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 (for products of non-animal origin where no specific risks have been identified)

2. Increased official controls due to known or emerging risks under Article 15.5 of Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 as implemented by Regulation (EC) No 669/2009 as amended

3. Emergency/Safeguard measures

a. under Article 53 of Regulation (EC) No 178/2002

b. under other legislation

[194]Non-compliances identified for products of non-animal origin where there is a serious risk and they have been imported into Ireland from another member state or from outside of the EU must be notified to the European Commission through the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF). In addition, reports on all consignments of products subject to the increased controls or emergency/safeguard measures (2 and 3 above) are reported to the Commission on a quarterly basis, including the outcome of the controls carried out.

A total of 3,829 random checks were carried out on consignments/containers by HSE in 2010. Of these, 9 consignments were rejected. There was a total of 365 consignments in 2010 which were subject to increased official controls/emergency measures, 21 of which were rejected. In 2011, there was a total of 945 consignments which were subject to increased controls, 41 of which were rejected. Rejected consignments were in the main destroyed but some were re-dispatched in accordance with the legislation. All of these consignments which are subject to increased official controls/emergency measures were inspected by HSE.

My Department’s involvement in relation to controls on imports from Third Countries arises under Regulation (EC) No. 669/2009 and relates to identified pesticide residue risks in imported foods. All of the produce sampled under the requirements of Regulation 669/2009 in recent years has been found to be in compliance and consequently entered into free circulation within the jurisdiction.

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