FSAI finds 71 breaches of food law in cold store audit

Dr. Pamela Byrne, FSAI chief executive
Dr. Pamela Byrne, FSAI chief executive

Cold store operators need to improve compliance with food legislation, says FSAI

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16 November 2015 | 0

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) today published an audit report on levels of non-compliance with food law by commercial cold stores, which rent out refrigerated storage space to food businesses.

Audits were carried out by the FSAI across 16 operational cold stores selected based on size, type of products stored and services offered. Compliance checks identified 71 breaches of legislation, including:

  • 63% of facilities were non-compliant in relation to pre-requisite programmes (basic good hygiene and practices) and food safety management systems
  • 50% were non-compliant in relation to product identification and location (tracking)
  • 47% of facilities that accepted returns did not have adequate controls in place
  • 44% of the businesses were not capable of providing the required information during the traceability checks
  • 38% were non-compliant with legal requirements regarding labelling

Sub-letting cold store chambers

The report notes that in recent years, cold store operators have expanded the range of services they offer, with more than 22 distinct services identified among the facilities audited. The expansion of services offered to clients has meant that cold stores are now routinely operational outside normal working hours, with many providing clients with 24 hour access. The practice of sub-letting cold store chambers or dedicated space within a chamber to tenants has become common. In some of the cold stores audited, these tenant food business operators were found to be operating unsupervised.

During the audits, numerous examples of best practice were observed however; many of which included the customisation of the electronic warehouse management system to track and record movement of product within the cold store, integration of the system with client software and also scanning of associated paperwork.

Deficiencies in inspection service

The FSAI also identified deficiencies in the inspection service in place within the cold stores assessed. The frequency of inspections applied in these cold stores was not found to be commensurate with the risk associated with the activities and complex arrangements associated with these establishments. In the majority of audits conducted, the inspectors were not familiar with the full suite of activities being carried out in, or tenants operating from, the establishment.  Neither were they familiar with the warehouse management systems in place.

To address the recommendations in the report, the FSAI says it is working closely with the official agencies to strengthen operational and inspection controls in this area, which includes a review of the risk categorisation of cold stores, the training required by inspectors and the level of collaboration between supervising official agencies. It will develop a guide to good practice for cold store operators and the food businesses that use them.

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