Restaurant inspection disclosure in Dublin: Bad food, bad regulation or bad journalism?

The Dublin Inquirer reports that last week, Dublin’s burrito lovers were bereft.

little-ass-burrito-bar-dublin-ireland-E7RXY5Two of the city centre’s most popular burrito bars, Little Ass Burrito Bar at 32a Dawson Street and Mama’s Revenge at 12 Leinster Street South, were issued with closure orders.

This was according to the rote media reports we often get, listing the names of restaurants hit with such orders, and not very much more.

But both burrito bars are open now, serving wraps of rice and beans with pulled pork and all the trimmings. There won’t be any shortage of Mexican grub any time soon.

So what really happened there? And what does it say about how the media covers Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) closure orders?




The FSAI’s Jane Ryder says there’s no need to provide any extra information on press releases to separate serious breaches from minor breaches.

Six closure orders served on Ireland food businesses in February

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).

stockwell-artisan-foodsDr 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.”

Shiga toxin producing E. coli in raw milk cheese in Ireland

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.

Corleggy CheesesVTEC 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.


Irish guidance on sous vide cooking for caterers

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.

Sous VideThis 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.

The factsheet is available on our website at:

Salad safety in Ireland

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland reports this survey investigated the microbiological safety of ready-to-eat, pre-cut and pre-packaged fresh herbs and salad leaves available at retail sale in Ireland.

lettuceOver 1,000 samples were tested for the presence of Salmonella and enumerated for Listeria monocytogenes. Salmonella was detected in only 0.1% (1/1,005) of samples; this was a bag of rocket leaves grown in Italy from which S. Napoli was isolated. L. monocytogenes was below the limit of enumeration (<10 cfu/g) for 99.8% (998/1,000) of samples and at 10 cfu/g for the remaining two samples, all well below the maximum legal limit of 100 cfu/g.

Some samples were tested for the presence of verotoxigenic E. coli (VTEC). In total, 0/247 samples tested using the CEN/ISO TS 13136 method (which targets the major VTEC virulence genes stx and eae) were positive. In addition, 0/397 samples tested specifically for E. coli O26 were positive and although 1/403 samples tested specifically for the presence of E. coli O157 was positive, the isolate did not contain the genes required to produce verotoxin and therefore, was not of clinical significance.

This survey was carried out from June to October, the months when Irish produce was most likely on sale. Irish origin produce made up 62% of the samples tested in this survey, none of which were unsatisfactory.

Producers labelled fresh herbs and salad leaves with a wide range of storage instructions, particularly in relation to the temperature for chilled storage. Maximum storage temperatures as low as 3oC were recommended by some producers; however, the national recommended temperature for chilled storage is 0-5 oC. Food business operators that package ready-to-eat, pre-cut, fresh herbs and salad leaves should also be aware that the temperature in domestic fridges is generally higher than at retail and wholesale level.

In total, 87% of samples were stored or displayed in refrigerated conditions at the time the sample was collected.

The air temperature of the refrigeration unit for the majority (77%) of these samples was ≤5 oC. However, the air temperature of the refrigeration unit for 23% of chilled samples was >5oC. Indeed, an air temperature of 7.1oC was measured for the refrigeration unit in which the Salmonella-positive bag of rocket leaves was stored. This temperature could allow Salmonella numbers on the already contaminated product to increase if the shelf-life is sufficiently long. Food business operators should ensure that refrigeration units do not exceed the maximum chilled temperature of 5oC.

The bag of rocket in which Salmonella was detected was labelled as already washed. Washing (with or without the presence of sanitisers) cannot eliminate pathogens on fresh produce. Therefore, producers must take all reasonable measures to control potential points of contamination in the field, during harvesting, processing and distribution; for example using guides to good practice such as the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) Code of

Practice for Food Safety in the Fresh Produce Supply Chain (FSAI, 2001a). In addition, food business operators should ensure that their traceability records for the fresh herbs and salad leaves are robust, as this will facilitate rapid control measures to be implemented should a pathogen be detected in a batch of fresh herbs or salad leaves or if they are implicated in an outbreak of illness. The FSAI has produced Guidance Note No.10 on

Product Recall and Traceability (FSAI, 2013).

 Survey of the microbiological safety of ready-to-eat, pre-cut and pre-packaged fresh herbs and salad leaves from retail establishments in Ireland (13NS7)

Food Safety Authority of Ireland, May 2015


Planning for next food scare top priority for Ireland’s new food safety head

Food scares will always come and go, whether it’s horse meat, dioxins in pork or BSE. But when the next crisis arrives, there will be a new face leading the response at the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

pamela.byrne.fsaiDr Pamela Byrne (right, exactly as shown) became chief executive of the agency in March, taking over from Prof Alan Reilly. The environmental toxicologist from Cork is the first woman to head the authority but she won’t feel outnumbered because 75 per cent of her staff are female.

There are about 80 people working in the agency but she has received sanction from the Department of Health to fill several vacancies that remained unfilled because of the State recruitment embargo.

She says her job is to protect consumers’ health and that ensuring that all food ingredients are traceable is a key part of this. “Traceability within food business systems is going to be critically important,” she says.

“With globalisation of the food supply chain, we have ingredients coming from a number of different sources. We have products coming in from a number of different sources. And we have a lot of products going out.

“With the intended expansion of the food industry, it’s going to be really important that robust traceability systems are in place. And it’s also going to help us in terms of understanding where there might be new and emerging risks.”

The value of food and drink exports has grown from €7.1 billion in 2009 to €10.5 billion but Byrne says this growth also presents challenges. “As anything gets bigger there’s always going to be a need to make sure that those systems are fit for purpose. Food businesses are sourcing ingredients from all over the world and they must make sure their suppliers are reputable.” Exotic tastes But with increasingly exotic tastes being catered for, isn’t it impossible to ensure that all 21 ingredients in one recipe, for example, can be traced back to source and vouched for? “No, I don’t think it’s impossible,” she says. “A reputable food business operator who is sourcing ingredients from multiple sources all over the world should put in the systems to make sure that they are convinced of the reputable nature of every supplier.”

She says the horse meat crisis heightened everyone’s awareness of what can go wrong in the food industry.

So where will the next food scare come from? The authority is working with its European counterparts in investigations into the substitution of lower-value fish species for higher-value species, and the passing off of lower-quality honey as manuka honey.

Byrne also says her agency and the Department of Agriculture are leading a drive to reduce outbreaks of the food-poisoning bacterium campylobacter and are bringing chicken producers, processors and retailers together to do this.

In other Irish news, 15 enforcement orders – 14 closures and one prohibition — were served on food businesses in May, the highest number of closures in one month so far this year.

Dr Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive, FSAI warns that the legal onus is on food businesses to act responsibly and ensure that the food they serve and sell is safe to eat at all times.  She states that every Closure Order undermines the confidence consumers should expect to have in the safety of the food they eat. This has negative implications not only for the premises involved, but for the wider food industry.

“Most food businesses follow high standards and are compliant with food safety legislation.  However, inspectors continue to encounter cases where consumers’ health is jeopardised through a failure to comply with food safety and hygiene requirements,” says Dr Byrne says.  “There can be no excuse for such breaches and negligent practices. They are avoidable when food businesses have proper food safety management systems in place.”

Boil berries: Ireland reiterates advice

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) today reiterated its advice to consumers to boil all imported frozen berries for at least one minute prior to consumption. 

berries.boozeThe advice follows recent outbreaks of norovirus in Sweden and hepatitis A virus in Australia linked to the consumption of imported frozen berries, although there is no indication that batches of berries implicated have been imported into Ireland.

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. Microbiological analysis confirmed that imported frozen raspberries from Serbia were the source of this outbreak.  Contrary to national food safety advice in Sweden, the frozen imported raspberries were served uncooked in a dessert.  In Australia, imported frozen berries were linked to an outbreak of Hepatitis A virus which caused over 30 people to become ill during February and March of this year.

The advice to boil all imported frozen berries was first issued by the FSAI in 2013 during the investigation of an outbreak of hepatitis A virus in Ireland which was linked to imported frozen berries.  The advice was renewed in 2014 following related outbreaks in Europe.  The Irish outbreak turned out to be part of a multi-State outbreak, with over 1,000 cases reported in 12 EU countries.  Following a European-wide investigation the source of the outbreak was never confirmed, however batches of frozen berries from twelve food operators were linked to cases of illness in five of the countries affected.

Dr Lisa O’Connor, Chief Specialist in Food Science, FSAI states: “There remains an ongoing risk in the global imported frozen berry supply chain.  We therefore continue to recommend that imported frozen berries should be boiled for at least one minute before they are eaten.  This precautionary measure will destroy the virus if it is present and is particularly important when serving these foods to vulnerable people such as nursing home residents. While fresh berries have not been linked to these outbreaks, we remind consumers that – as with all other fruit and vegetables – they should always be washed thoroughly if they are being eaten uncooked.”

Chlorella powder? It has Salmonella

Organic chlorella powder, derived a single-celled green algae, is billed as having some super nutritional and detoxifying effects.

chlorella.powderIt can also have Salmonella.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland has expanded its recall of Nua Naturals Organic Chlorella Powder following the detection of Salmonella Rissen in a jar of chlorella powder, Nua Naturals is recalling additional batches of the above products. Nua Naturals is providing in-store point of sale notices requesting customers who have bought this product to return it. 

It’s a cyclical thing: More awareness, more food safety reporting in Ireland

A razor blade in minced meat is among the items alleged to have been found in food products in 2014, according to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

2,783 complaints were received about food safety, while the number of calls to the FSAI was up 8%, compared to 2013.

Bike-logo-570x420The FSAI said the increase reflected, in part, a growing awareness among consumers of the need to report poor hygiene practice.

Consumer complaints included reports of food unfit to eat, suspected food poisoning, poor hygiene standards and incorrect information labelling.

Reports included allegations of food contaminated with glass and dead maggots, as well as other foreign objects including a cigarette found in a fruit brack; wire in takeaway food and a metal bolt found in a tin of grapefruit.  

All complaints received by the FSAI were followed up and investigated by the HSE’s environmental health officers.

The FSAI said the increased activity reflected a demand among food businesses for information about labelling requirements and resources for food business start-ups, as well as a growing awareness among consumers of the need to report poor hygiene practice.

All complaints received by the FSAI were followed up and investigated by the HSE’s environmental health officers throughout the country.