Irish egg sector audit largely positive

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 of the table egg production chain, including the collection, transport, packaging, storage, distribution and retail sale of eggs.

The main objective was to assess the effectiveness of the controls carried out by the Poultry and Eggs Section of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM). A secondary objective was to ensure that the companies selected complied with food legislation.

The audit found there is an organized system of official controls to verify food law requirements and marketing standards for companies involved in the table egg industry.

Risk-Based Controls
Documented procedures on how official controls are carried out are in place, but some of these refer to legislation that has been repealed or replaced and may not accurately describe the control practices currently in use. This must be changed by the end of 2022.

Official controls in the table egg industry are carried out depending on the level of risk and the appropriate qualification and training of those involved in the controls. Eggs must be delivered to the consumer within a maximum period of 21 days after laying, in accordance with EU rules.

Depending on the type of business, risk categories include scale of operation, whether the business is registered with the Bord Bia quality assurance program, and compliance history. It also depends on whether or not there are multiple systems, such as organic, free-range, barn, or cage eggs, and the experience of authorized officers in the business.

Scoring categories range from zero to six. A combination of risk and assessment ratings result in a low, medium, or high inspection categorization. Companies listed as low are inspected once a year, medium twice a year, and high three times a year.

Records of official controls are kept and a copy is given to food businesses. The result of the inspection is either compliant or non-compliant. Those that do not comply are further categorized as minor, moderate, or major.

Discoveries on site
The audit team assessed food legislation in eight operations. Four were inspected to verify compliance with marketing standards.

The 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 sites to small domestic operations, one of which was an organic producer.

One file came from an egg packing center that was no longer in operation. However, the business still had a registration number and was listed in the food business registry, despite being closed for a long time.

The auditors noted that there is no procedure by which the DAFM revokes the registration of a packaging center which is no longer in operation, when the company does not complete the form informing the DAFM of closing the business. Such a system should be in place by the end of September this year.

Eggs examined at each packing center were stamped and contained the required information on the method of rearing organic, free-range, barn or cage, country of origin and, if produced in the Republic of Ireland, county identification and producer code. Each egg had its expiry date, as part of the stamp. The evaluated outer packaging provided mandatory information on egg class, size, packing center code and expiry date.

A small food company had 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 the category of eggs by weight were not calibrated and; pest control records were not kept.

The dispenser operator had told the DAFM inspector that he had six dispensers in operation during a recent inspection. However, at the time of the audit, he owned 10 machines. There is no requirement in the registration process to maintain an up-to-date list of machines being introduced or discontinued. This must be changed by the end of July. The FSAI said this was necessary to help with the traceability of all eggs placed on the market.

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