Food products placed on the European marketplace are covered by a range of legislation designed to ensure that products supplied to consumers are of the highest safety standards. My Department plays a part in the enforcement of this legislation along with Competent Authorities in other Member States, other Irish Government departments and State Agencies such as the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and the Health Service Executive.
The import of products of animal origin from third countries is governed by a comprehensive and robust legislative framework laid down at EU level, controlled by Member States in the first instance, and audited by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Health and Food Safety (formally the FVO), to ensure compliance with all of the relevant food safety standards. The legislation imposes health and supervisory requirements designed to ensure that imported products meet standards equivalent to those required for production and trade between Member States. Border Inspection Posts are operated by my Department. Import control procedures on products of animal and fish origin are highly prescriptive and strictly audited by the Directorate to ensure compliance. Inspection finding reports are published on the Directorate General for Health and Food Safety’s website. Veterinary checks are carried out on consignments of foods imported from Third countries outside the EU. 100% of consignments are documentary and identity checked, and physical checks, including sampling of products, are carried out according to European regulations.
Primary responsibility under EU law for the safety and traceability of food placed on the market lies with food business operators. The role of National Competent Agencies is to verify compliance with this requirement. This is done via a combination of inspecting establishments and auditing the food safety management systems which operators have in place. These controls are applied at different stages in the food supply chain. Regulation (EC) No. 178 of 2002 sets out the general principles and requirements of EU food law and stipulates that food business operators must, at all stages of production, processing and distribution within their business, ensure food law requirements are satisfied.
I am satisfied that the controls and checks in place and enforced by my Department ensure that EU consumers are protected and correctly informed when they purchase and consume food products.