FSAI Issued a Total of 107 Food Alerts and Food Allergen Alerts in 2019

FSAI Issued a Total of 107 Food Alerts and Food Allergen Alerts in 2019

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) today published the number and breakdown of food alerts and food allergen alerts issued in 2019. Last year, 55 food alerts and 52 food allergen alerts were issued, as compared to 56 and 46, respectively in 2018. Food alerts are notifications issued by the FSAI relating to an identified hazard i.e. a biological, chemical or physical agent in, or condition of, food/food contact materials with the potential to cause an adverse health effect. Food allergen alerts are issued by the FSAI regarding the possible risk to consumers who have a food allergies or intolerance to a particular food or food ingredient.

In 2019, the FSAI dealt with 679 food incidents, resulting in 107 food alerts and food allergen alerts issued as a consequence. These food incidents can lead to either a withdrawal of a certain product from food businesses or a recall from consumers.  Food incidents can arise for a number of reasons such as an inspection by a food inspector who identifies a food safety issue; a complaint from a consumer; the food business informing the FSAI that they have a problem with a certain food; a laboratory test result indicating the food is contaminated with a bug; or notifications on food safety issues from other Member States through the European Commission’s Rapid Alert Systems for Food and Feed (RASFF) network.

Food Alerts

In 2019, 55 food alerts were issued. The 55 food alerts were due to either product recalls or withdrawals from the Irish market for various reasons including: microbiological, chemical or foreign body contamination or mislabelling. Examples varied greatly from: the presence of plastic in meat products; metal pieces in prepared dishes; the detection of arsenic above safe levels in bottled drinking water; foods found to contain insects; the detection of Listeria monocytogenes in various products such as poultry, dairy and fruit; undeclared alcohol in a non-alcoholic beverage; and the mislabelling of dietetic foods and food supplements.

Food Allergen Alerts

In 2019, 52 food allergen alerts were issued. In the EU, there are 14 specified categories of allergens that must be labelled/declared and if these are not labelled/declared or are incorrect, then this may result in a food allergen alert being issued. In Ireland, milk, cereals, eggs and nuts were amongst the most common allergens incorrectly labelled/declared in 2019. Three in every 100 people in Ireland have a food allergy and the seriousness of these occurrences can result in the loss of life to an individual in its most extreme form.  It can also result in consumers requiring urgent medical treatment due to severe allergic reactions if they eat food containing the allergen.  In 2019, the main reasons for the food allergen alerts were the allergen was unknowingly incorporated in the product and, therefore, not listed in the ingredients; the ingredients list/label not in English; packing of a product in the wrong pack; or failure to highlight an allergen properly in the ingredients list.

According to Dr Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive, FSAI, consumers should be able to trust that the food they are eating is labelled correctly and free from foreign objects and undeclared ingredients. Equally important is to have confidence that food businesses will take appropriate speedy action to advise the authorities and consumers when things go wrong and ensure that unsafe product is removed from sale.

“Last year, the FSAI issued on average two alerts each week about food products which were unsafe and subject to withdrawal or recall. This service works seven days a week. We encourage food businesses to deal immediately with problems as they arise and put the protection of consumers first and foremost. The food alerts and food allergen alerts issued by the FSAI demonstrate the serious risks to consumers’ health that can arise from failure to follow the correct food safety procedures. I am pleased that more and more food businesses respond to such events by contacting the authorities and ensuring timely and speedy recalls and allowing us to alert consumers and the trade, when necessary.”