Ruairi Byrne of Buzz writes the owner of an Indian takeaway in Donegal has issued an apology to customers after a ‘pond of poo’ was discovered in the restaurant’s kitchen.
Saffron in Creeslough was served a closure order on October 19 by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland following an inspection which found “human excrement overflowing and ponding in an area beside the shed in which the potato peeler was located due to an overflowing manhole”.
“As staff had to stand outside while using this food equipment, they would be standing in the excrement, thereby carrying it into the food premises on their shoes,” the closure order stated.
Dead flies were also found “floating in oil used to baste pizza dough”, according to the closure.
“I would like to say sorry,” Mr Kumar told Independent.ie. “When this happened, me and the manager were out of the country for a few weeks. First of all I was told about that human waste issue.
“By chance, that day, the drain got blocked and it was our bad luck. Now we have sorted this. We stopped making chips there and now we get prepacked chips.
Mr Kumar continued: “We have fulfilled all the requirements of the FSAI now. Last week and this week a health inspector was here. They are now satisfied. I again apologise for what happened and I would like to make sure that it will never happen again.”
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) report for 2016 reveals that they handled over 10,000 queries in 2016, as well as outlining some of the more gruesome finds made by their inspectors.
The report outlines the wide scope of the Authority, who now supervise almost 50,000 food businesses (49,404 to be exact) and their Advice Line took 10,497 queries from consumers, manufacturers and retailers in 2016.
According to the report, contamination of food with foreign objects was frequently reported to them by consumers.
Last year these reports included:
allegations of food contaminated with insects and glass,
a live insect found in a packaged dessert
a long black hair in garlic sauce
a human nail in a takeaway meal
glass in a dessert
plastic rope in a takeaway meal
a cigarette butt in a bag of chips.
Other complaints regarding poor hygiene standards included:
dirty customer toilets
rats seen on the premises
dirty tables and floors
and one case of a staff member at a deli sneezing into their hands and then preparing sandwiches without washing their hands.
All complaints received were followed up and investigated.
In total, 106 Enforcement Orders were served on food businesses last year by the Authority.
That broke down to 94 Closure Orders, three Improvement orders and nine Prohibition Orders.
The annual report also reveals the FSAI sampled and tested 56,588 samples, while 2,625 food supplements were assessed.
And the highest number of food alerts were issued in a decade, 39 in total.
These alerts resulted in product recalls or withdrawals.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has published new guidance to assist growers with the safe production of fresh produce on farms.
The guidance and its accompanying simplified leaflet outlines the potential risks associated with fresh produce and provides practical advice to growers to reduce this risk and improve food safety. They were developed in conjunction with an expert working group comprising growers, processors, retailers, State bodies and former representatives. Fresh produce (which includes fresh fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, sprouted seeds, edible flowers and herbs) is an integral component of the Irish diet and its popularity and consumption continues to increase. As such, it is important that growers producing fresh produce in Ireland use good agricultural and hygiene practices to reduce risk and improve the safety of fresh produce for all consumers.
The new guidance comes at a time when outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with fresh produce are increasing. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has identified that fresh produce such as leafy greens; bulb and stem vegetables; tomatoes; melons; fresh pods, legumes or grains; sprouted seeds and berries pose the highest risks to consumers. In 2013, frozen berries caused 240 confirmed cases of hepatitis, with a probable 1,075 further cases across 11 European countries, including Ireland. The FSAI’s advice to boil all frozen imported berries before consumption is still in place, as contaminated berries could still be circulating in the food chain.
According to Dr Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive, FSAI anything which comes into contact with fresh produce has the potential to cause contamination and it is vital that growers take the necessary steps to limit contamination of fresh produce in the first instance.
“A lot of fresh produce is eaten raw such as fruits, vegetables and herbs, so any harmful bugs that may be in the produce will not be removed by cooking. This places a big onus on growers to use good agricultural and hygiene practices to reduce the risk of contamination of fresh produce,” said Dr Byrne.
The guidance makes it clear that anyone producing fresh produce for sale must be registered as a grower with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The guidance goes on to highlight eight key areas which growers should address to help reduce risk and improve food safety, including:
Choose the right site to grow fresh produce
Restrict the access of animals, pests and people to that site
Use organic fertilisers safely
Use pesticides safely
Source and use a safe water supply
Use good harvesting practices
Train staff and provide good staff facilities
Put a system of traceability and recall in place
The FSAI acknowledges and thanks the working group* who assisted in developing the guidance document. It was comprised of growers, processors, retailers as well as representatives of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Bord Bia, Teagasc, the EPA and the Irish Farmers Association. The new guidance document and leaflet are available for free download at www.fsai.ie.
The company was also found guilty of applying false Irish slaughter and cutting plant codes to packaging labels and of having an inadequate traceability plan for the products. It was fined a total of €16,000.
The District Court judge told the firm that this was a very serious matter and constituted a fraud not only on the consumer, but on the entire industry.
Why is the FSAI reiterating its advice to boil imported frozen berries for one minute? As a result of recent outbreaks of norovirus in Sweden and hepatitis A virus in Australia, both of which have been linked to the consumption of imported frozen berries, the FSAI is reiterating its advice to continue to boil imported frozen berries for one minute before consumption. This is particularly important when serving these foods to vulnerable people such as nursing home residents. The outbreak in Sweden occurred in a nursing home in the beginning of May, causing 70 people to become ill with norovirus. Three deaths are reported to have been potentially linked to this outbreak. Contrary to national food safety advice in Sweden, the frozen imported raspberries were served uncooked in a dessert. Microbiological analysis confirmed the presence of norovirus in the frozen berries.
Could contaminated imported frozen berries be on sale in Ireland? There is no indication that batches of berries implicated in the recent Swedish and Australian outbreaks have been imported into Ireland. These outbreaks, however, demonstrate an ongoing risk in the global imported frozen berry supply chain.
How do I know if frozen berries are imported? If the label does not state the country of origin, you should assume that the berries are imported. The shop where you purchased the berries may be able to provide this information.
Will retailers be displaying notices about the requirement to boil imported frozen berries?
Retailers selling imported frozen berries need to ensure that the berries they use are sourced from reputable suppliers operating effective food safety management systems and comprehensive traceability systems. As the food chain can be quite complex, it is necessary for food businesses at each stage of the food chain to seek assurances regarding the effectiveness of the food safety management systems in place from their suppliers. If such assurances are not available, the FSAI recommends that the retailer displays a notice advising customers that the frozen berries should be boiled for one minute before consumption.
How do I know that the berries used by food businesses (e.g. smoothie bars, cake manufacturers, etc.) are safe to eat? Food businesses using imported frozen berries need to ensure that the berries they use are sourced from reputable suppliers operating effective food safety management systems and comprehensive traceability systems. As the food chain can be quite complex, it is necessary for food businesses at each stage of the food chain to seek assurances regarding the effectiveness of the food safety management systems in place from their suppliers. If such assurances are not available, the FSAI recommends that the berries should be boiled for one minute before being used in foods.
What if I have some berries in my freezer at home – are these safe to eat? If the berries are imported you should boil them for one minute before consumption. Boiling for one minute will destroy viruses, if present.
Are fresh berries safe/ok to eat? There is no evidence to suggest that fresh Irish or fresh imported berries are a risk. Fresh berries should be washed before consumption which is in keeping with the advice for all fresh fruit and vegetables.
Can I eat the berries I grow in my own garden? Yes, this issue only relates to frozen imported berries and so this advice does not apply to berries grown in your own garden and frozen after picking.
Why are imported frozen berries more of a risk than other types of berries? Across Europe, more outbreaks have been linked to imported frozen berries than to other types of berries. Freezing preserves viruses such as norovirus and hepatitis A.
Are all frozen berries a risk? This safety advice refers to imported frozen berries, such as raspberries, strawberries, redcurrants, blackberries, blackcurrants and blueberries. However, as a precaution, we are advising that all imported frozen berries should be boiled for one minute before consumption.
Are tinned berries also a risk? No, tinned or canned berries have not been identified as a risk.
What if I have eaten frozen berries recently, without boiling them? The time from consumption of contaminated food to the onset of illness with hepatitis A, ranges from 15-50 days, with the average being 28 days. In the case of norovirus, symptoms usually appear around 12 to 48 hours after consuming contaminated food. If you think that you have consumed frozen berries and may be ill as a result, you should seek medical advice. This applies in all cases if you believe that any food you have eaten has made you ill.
Should I stop buying frozen berries? No, there is no need to stop buying frozen berries. Frozen imported berries should be boiled before eating until further notice.
I have given my toddler/child puree made from frozen berries, should I be worried? If you are concerned about your toddler/child, you should seek medical advice but you should not be concerned about giving them berries that have been boiled. Boiling for one minute will destroy viruses, if present.
What is hepatitis A and what are the symptoms? Hepatitis A infection is an acute disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. There are five main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E. Illness usually starts about 28 days after exposure to the virus, but it can start anytime between 15 and 50 days after infection. The most common symptoms are fever, loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue and abdominal pain, followed within a few days by jaundice. The disease often fails to show the noticeable symptoms or is mild, particularly in children below five years. Jaundice occurs in 70-80% of people aged over 14 years and less than 10% of children younger than six years. Symptoms may last from one or two weeks to a number of months. Prolonged, relapsing hepatitis for up to one year occurs in 15% of cases.
How is hepatitis A virus spread ? Hepatitis A is a human virus that is primarily spread from person-to-person via the faecal-oral route. The virus is shed in the faeces of infected people. It may also be spread through food that has been contaminated by infected food handlers or by contaminated water. People who have the virus are most infectious in the week or two before onset of symptoms and may be infectious up to one week after onset.
What is norovirus and what are the symptoms? Norovirus is one of the most common causes of gastroenteritis. Symptoms include – nausea (often sudden onset), vomiting (often projectile) and watery diarrhoea. Symptoms begin around 12 to 48 hours after becoming infected. The illness is usually brief, with symptoms lasting only about 1 or 2 days. Most people make a full recovery within 1-2 days, however some people (usually the very young or elderly) may become very dehydrated and require hospital treatment.d
How is norovirus spread? Noroviruses are very contagious and can spread easily from person-to-person. Both the faeces and vomit of an infected person contain the virus and are infectious. People infected with norovirus are contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill to 2/3 days after recovery. Some people may be contagious for as long as 2 weeks after recovery. It is important for people to use good handwashing and other hygienic practices after they have recently recovered from norovirus illness. In addition, noroviruses are very resilient and can survive in the environment (e.g. on surfaces) for a number of weeks.
How might berries become contaminated with norovirus and hepatitis A virus? Contamination could occur on the farm, through use of sewage-contaminated agricultural water or through contamination by infected workers. Cross-contamination could occur post-harvest along the supply chain, through contact with contaminated surfaces of machines, equipment and facilities during freezing, mixing and packaging processes.
When did the FSAI first recommend boiling of imported frozen berries? The FSAI first issued this advice in 2013, during the investigation of an outbreak of hepatitis A virus in Ireland which was linked to imported frozen berries. The outbreak turned out to be part of a multi-state outbreak, with over 1,000 cases reported in 12 EU countries.
What was the source of contamination of the frozen berries in the 2013 hepatitis A virus outbreak? The multi-state investigation did not identify the source of the contamination. The investigation concluded that contamination could have occurred at the freezing processor or at the primary production stage. It highlighted the importance of compliance with Good Hygiene Practice (GHP) and Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) and cautioned that contaminated product related to the outbreak could still be circulating in the food chain.
What was the evidence that linked imported frozen berries with the 2013 multi-state hepatitis A virus outbreak in Europe? Contaminated batches of mixed frozen berries/berry-containing products were identified in Italy, France and Norway and were recalled from the market. This evidence together with epidemiological and environmental investigations from the affected countries identified frozen berries as the mostly likely vehicle ofinfection for this outbreak and suggested that it could be a single outbreak linked to a common, continuous source of contamination. At the request of the European Commission, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) coordinated the tracing activities of affected Member States. This work involved collecting data on the source of each berry delivery from retail sale back to the farmer to see if a common source or sources of contamination could be identified. Bulgarian blackberries and Polish redcurrants were identified as the most common ingredient in the food consumed by affected people. However, this might be explained by the fact that Poland is the largest producer of redcurrants in Europe, and Bulgaria is a major exporter of frozen blackberries. While no single point source of contamination was identified, twelve food operators were identified with links to cases and batches in five of the countries affected.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) reports that six Closure Orders were served on food businesses during the month of February for breaches of food safety legislation, pursuant to the FSAI Act, 1998 and the EC (Official Control of Foodstuffs) Regulations, 2010. The Closure Orders were issued by environmental health officers in the Health Service Executive (HSE).
Dr Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive, FSAI stated that consumers must be confident at all times that the food they are eating is safe to eat, adding, “There can be no excuse for putting consumers’ health at risk through negligent practices. Food businesses must recognise that they have a legal responsibility to make sure that the food they sell or serve is safe to consume. We are re-emphasising to all food businesses the need for ongoing and consistent compliance with food safety and hygiene legislation. This requires putting appropriate food safety management procedures in place and making sure they are strictly adhered to at all times.”
Corleggy Cheeses is recalling all batches of its raw milk cheeses due to the detection of verocytotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTEC) in two batches of its cow’s milk cheese. The cheeses are supplied to some restaurants and retail shops. They are also sold directly at food markets. Consumers are advised not to eat the affected cheeses.
VTEC may cause severe bloody diarrhoea and abdominal cramps, although sometimes the infection causes non-bloody diarrhoea or no symptoms. In some groups, particularly children under 5 years of age and the elderly, the infection can also cause a complication called haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) in which the kidneys fail.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland says, sous vide, which is French for ‘under vacuum’, is a method of cooking where food is vacuum-packed in a plastic pouch and heated in a temperature controlled bath for a defined length of time.
This cooking method can present some food safety risks which should be identified and controlled. These include the potential for survival and growth of bacteria that can grow under the anaerobic (absence of oxygen) conditions created by the vacuum packaging, e.g. Clostridium botulinum.
Due to the rise in the use of the sous vide cooking in restaurants and catering establishments, the FSAI has prepared a factsheet which highlights the risks associated with this method of cooking. It provides guidance on managing these risks, in particular guidance on cooking temperatures and times. It also makes recommendations for cooling, storing and reheating food that has been cooked by sous vide.