Local authority inspections failed to deal with food producers where rodent activity, untraceable meat, and long-standing hygiene problems were discovered

A local authority was accused of failing to protect consumers and of carrying out inspections that did not identify long-standing food hygiene problems.

The Food Safety Authority (FSAI) said the council was carrying out fewer inspections than they were supposed to, had not dealt with serious issues first raised in a 2015 audit, and that it was difficult to have confidence in work that was being carried out.

Cavan County Council had also not spotted unlabelled allergens in one seasoning product that had been in shops for ten years, the authority said.

Internal emails also detail how inspectors from the FSAI went to business premises in the county and found dirty, unhygienic conditions, untraceable meat, as well as rodent activity.

The records said these problems did not appear to be new suggesting that the council’s previous inspections had been ineffective in identifying serious food safety issues.

The food safety authority also raised questions over whether a veterinary inspector – paid for out of FSAI grants – was working full-time in food safety.

They also highlighted consistent delays by the council in uploading inspection reports to an online system, according to records released under FOI.

In May of 2019, the FSAI sent a letter to the council following two joint inspections, one of which had discovered a “grave and immediate danger to public health” at a business premises.

The letter said: “The FSAI had serious concerns regarding the effectiveness of the Council’s official controls at this former premises and the appropriateness of the Council’s decision to grant approval there.”

One of the inspections had discovered rodent activity, a drain discharging onto a floor, and poor controls for dangerous listeria and botulinum toxins.

A second inspection of a sausage producer found meat smokers in a yard with a pet dog present and the processing area in a “filthy and unhygienic condition”.

There was lack of traceability on meat goods, and the business was deemed “wholly unsuitable for the nature of the operations”.