Official controls in the egg sector are working well, but there are some minor issues, according to a report published by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI).
An audit in November 2021 covered official controls on the table egg production chain, including egg collection, transport, packaging, warehouses and distribution and retail sales.
The main objective was to evaluate the effectiveness of control measures by the Poultry and Egg Division of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM). A secondary aim was to ensure that selected businesses comply with food legislation.
The audit found that there is an organized system of official controls to verify the requirements of food legislation and marketing standards for businesses involved in the table egg industry.
Documented procedures on how official controls are carried out are in place, but some of them refer to legislation that has been repealed or replaced and may not accurately describe the control practices currently in use. This should be changed by the end of 2022.
Official checks across the table egg industry are carried out according to the level of risk and whether those involved in checks are suitably qualified and trained. According to EU rules, eggs must be delivered to the consumer within a maximum of 21 days after laying.
Depending on business type, risk categories include scale of operation, whether the business is registered with the Bord Bia Quality Assurance Scheme and history of compliance. It also depends on whether more than one system is in operation, such as organic, free-range, shed or cage eggs and on the authorized officers’ experience of the business.
Rating categories are from zero to six. A combination of the risk and rating scores results in an inspection categorization of low, medium or high. Businesses listed as low are inspected once a year, medium twice a year and high three times a year.
Records of official control measures are kept and a copy is given to food businesses. The inspection outcome is either compliant or non-compliant. Non-compliers are further categorized as minor, moderate or major.
Findings on site
The audit team assessed food law in eight operations. Four were inspected to check compliance with marketing standards.
Businesses included a retailer, several central distribution centers, a wholesaler and a vending machine operator. Four companies were inspected, varying in size from large commercial premises to small domestic operations, one of which was an organic producer.
One file was from an egg packing center that was no longer in operation. However, the firm still had a registration number and was on the register of food businesses, despite the fact that it had long been closed.
Auditors found there is no procedure by which DAFM revokes the registration of a defunct packing center when the company fails to complete the form notifying DAFM that the business has closed. Such a system should be in place by the end of September this year.
Eggs examined in each packing center were stamped and had the required information on the farming method being organic, free range, shed or cage, the country of origin and, if produced in the Republic of Ireland, the country identification and producer code. Each egg had its best-before date, as part of the stamp. The outer packaging evaluated provided mandatory information on class, size, egg packing center code and best before date.
One small food business recently constructed a new building as part of an expansion. Several issues were identified, including some records kept for the food safety management system were not accurate; the scales used to determine egg grade by weight were not calibrated and; pest control records were not maintained.
The vending machine operator told the DAFM inspector that he had six machines in operation during a recent check. However, at the time of the audit, he had 10 machines. There is no requirement in the registration process to keep an up-to-date list of machines being introduced or stopped. This should be changed by the end of July. FSAI said it was necessary to help the traceability of all eggs placed on the market.
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