The Food Safety Authority of Ireland has announced details of a new national information campaign focused on food safety practices in butchers' shops and meat counters.

Environmental health officers across the country have been working closely with food businesses in this particular sector of the food industry to encourage an increase in the adoption of food safety management systems based on the principles of HACCP. The FSAI have devised an information campaign to support this work, specifically aimed at butcher shops and meat counters which includes a suite of literature to assist food businesses in this sector to implement a HACCP programme.

A recent survey undertaken by EHOs throughout the country has identified approximately 1,100 butcher shops and 500 meat counters within supermarkets across Ireland. Through this campaign the FSAI will target high-risk butchers which have been identified as those selling ready-to-eat meat products in addition to raw meat products. Survey results show that from the 961 high-risk butchers examined, approximately 27% are compliant and an additional 60% have started the process, with 13% who have yet to show any compliance with HACCP requirements. A core focus of the FSAI campaign is to significantly increase this level to achieve 100% compliance in the interest of protecting consumer health.

According to Dr. Wayne Anderson, chief specialist food science, FSAI, good hygiene practice and HACCP are crucial for safe food management. "Implementing a food safety management system is crucial in today's environment of increasing customer demands," he said. "By not complying with the principles of best food safety practice, food businesses not only place the viability of their business in question by flouting the law, they also place the health of their customers at risk. If a system of checks and balances, such as those offered by a tailored HACCP system, are not in place, a food business is at greater risk of a food safety problem."

The FSAI has previously implemented similar campaigns focused on other sectors of the food industry including hotels with function catering, hospitals and nursing homes which resulted in a significant increase in the level of compliance with HACCP. In addition to the current campaign targeting butcher shops and meat counters, the FSAI will be focusing on other categories of the food industry in the near future to ensure compliance with HACCP is achieved throughout the entire spectrum of the Irish food industry.

"Some businesses perceive the development of a food safety management system as a complicated procedure involving a lot of paperwork. While it may be seen as an onerous task, HACCP can be implemented with minimum difficulty as demonstrated by the majority of compliant food businesses. At this point there is no excuse for non-compliance and every food business must know the steps in their business that are critical to food safety and take responsibility for controlling them. Besides obvious food safety benefits, HACCP offers other advantages to the everyday operation of a business such as reducing product losses and helping to keep staff aware of food safety issues," said Dr Anderson.

Since 1998 all Irish food businesses are required by law to have a food safety management system based on the principles of HACCP. It is a systematic approach to identifying and controlling hazards that could pose a danger in the preparation of safe food. HACCP helps food managers identify what could go wrong in their food business and assists them put plans and systems in place to prevent negative occurrences. The principles of HACCP incorporate: identifying hazards; determining the critical control points; establishing critical limits; establishing a system to monitor control of the CCP; establishing the corrective action when monitoring indicates a CCP is not under control; establishing procedures for verification to confirm the HACCP system is working effectively and establishing documentation concerning all procedures and records appropriate to these principles and their applications.