The Food Safety Authority of Ireland may carry out inspections or may arrange by contract for the inspection, approval, licensing and registration of premises and equipment. This includes
• the inspection of premises or equipment used in connection with the manufacture, processing, disposal, transport or storage of food;
• the inspection, sampling, and analysis of food, including food ingredients and
• the inspection and analysis of food labelling to determine compliance with food legislation.
As necessary, the Authority may carry out additional inspections, as it considers necessary in the interest of food safety and hygiene.
The Authority may enter contracts with service providers in relation to the enforcement of food safety legislation. Contracts have been entered with various authorities including in particular, in respect of food after the producer stage with the Department of Agriculture, the HSE and local authorities and private bodies.
An official agency carrying out functions acts for and on behalf of the Authority. The Authority shall specify matters with which it enters service contract, including, in particular, the objects and targets for food inspection and having regard to its resources, the timeframe in which it desires to have the targets and objectives achieved and any other necessary matter. The official agency shall specify to the Authority the means by which it proposes to meet the targets and the resources it proposes to deploy in the performance of services.
Service contracts are to be for a period of not less than three years and may be reviewed. The terms of service contracts are to be published.
The contracted agency is to provide a report to the Authority annually or more frequently in relation to the implementation of the service contract which the Authority may publish The Authority may take measures to determine whether the official agency is adequately carrying out inspections under a service contract.
An official agency which enters a service contract must provide the necessary resources for its performance. Where the official agency fails to enter a contract and in the opinion of the Authority, it has failed to discharge or it has in the opinion of the Authority failed to discharge all or a significant or material part of its obligations, the Authority may put in place alternative arrangements.
The Board or the chief executive may appoint authorised officers for the purpose of the Act. An official agency which has entered a service contract with a Board shall appoint persons to be authorised officers and inform the Authority of their appointment. Such persons have all the powers of an authorised officer under the Act in the performance of their service contract.
Without prejudice to provisions of any food legislation, an authorised officer may for the purpose of obtaining information which may be required to enable the Authority exercise its function:
- require such records, information in legible or non-legible form as the officer may reasonably require;
- enter premises at which there are reasonable grounds to believe any trade, business or activity in connection with the production, processing or disposal, manufacture, exportation, importation, distribution or storage of food is or has been carried on or that records are kept and search and inspect the same;
- secure for later inspection records etc. at the premises;
- inspect and take copies of copies of records;
- remove and retain records;
require a person to give information as the officer may reasonably require with regard to the trade, business or activity or in regard to the persons carrying on same;
- require access to electronic equipment;
- summon, at any time, any other person being an employee or officer if the business, any information which the officer may reasonably require in relation to that trade, business or activity or to produce any records.
An officer requires a warrant of the District Court to enter a private dwelling. An authorised officer may require a Garda Siochana to assist him in the exercise of his powers including breaking open any premises or any other action in which the use of force may be necessary. It is lawful for a member of An Garda Siochana so required, to comply with the requirement.
There is also provision for issue of warrants to search premises, without prejudice to the general powers, provision for penalties for continuing offenses.
For the purposes of food inspections to be carried on by the Authority, in addition to any other legislation concerning the sampling or analysis of food, the Minister may make regulations providing for the taking of food samples and materials and articles intended or used in the preparation or manufacture of food including packaging and machinery and of articles which are by-products of the manufacture of food and carry out tests, examinations and analyses of such samples. Obstruction of an authorised officer in the course of taking samples is an offence.
The Minister shall, following consultation with the Scientific Committee, prescribe the certificate or other evidence to be given of the result of any test, examination or analysis carried out in accordance with such regulations and the persons or classes of persons by and to whom such certificates or evidence is to be given.Certificates shall be presumptive evidence of the result of the test, examination or analysis etc. They are to be admissible as evidence in a Court.
Where an authorised officer is of the opinion that at any premises or part of a premises, any activity which involves the handling, preparation, processing, manufacturing, distribution or storage of food or the condition of any premises at which is carried out, is of a nature that if it persists, it will or is likely to pose a risk to public health, the officer may, following consultations with chief executive or such other officer of the Authority or official agency designated in that regard, serve an improvement notice.
The improvement notice shall identify the activity or defect in the premises giving rise to the risk and require that remedial action be taken. If appropriate, it shall specify the nature or details of the remedial action. It shall specify a time limit by which remedial action is to be completed and implemented. It shall include other requirements as are considered necessary in the circumstances.
The improvement notice shall be served on the proprietor or person in charge of the premises and shall be immediately effective or as appropriate, from a date specified.The improvement notice may be revoked or varied by the chief executive or member of the staff of the Authority or member of the Board for stated reasons.
Where an improvement notice is not complied with or is not complied with to the satisfaction of an authorised officer, the Authority or official agency may apply to the District Court for an improvement order addressed to the proprietor or person in charge. The improvement notice is to specify that the remedial work, the time limit and such other requirements as the Court considers appropriate.
An improvement order shall provide that the Authority or official agency may serve a closure order where the improvement order is not complied with within the time specified or where the circumstances specified in the improvement order which arise prior to the expiry of the time limit warrant serving of a closure order.
Nothing is to prevent the Authority or official agency from serving a closure order at any time in respect of premises, which is the subject of an improvement notices, where in the opinion of the authorised officer, the circumstances require the service of a closure order.
Where an authorised officer is of the opinion that there is or is likely to be a grave and immediate danger to public health at or in or on any premises or part where he is unable to satisfy to his satisfaction, due to any obstruction, the level of danger, if any, which exists, the authorised officer may, following consultations with the chief executive or other officer of the Authority or an official agency designated by the Board, serve and arrange to have served, on the proprietor or person in charge a closure order.
A closure order is to state that the authorised officer is of the opinion that the premises should be closed and specify the matters which in his opinion give rise or are likely to give rise to the risk. Where in his opinion any of the matters involves or will involve a contravention of food legislation, it must state
• that he or she is of that opinion and specify the provisions as to which he is of that opinion and
• give particulars of the reasons why he is of that opinion and
• direct that the premises be closed
• unless and until the matters specified and any associated contravention have been remedied.
The Board is to be notified at its next available meeting of the service of a closure order. A closure order shall take effect where the order so declares, immediately it is received by the person on whom it is served. In any other case, it is to take effect, where no appeal has been made on the expiration of the period during which an appeal may be taken or the day specified, whichever is later, or in case such an appeal is taken, the day next following the day on which the closure order is confirmed on appeal.
The bringing of an appeal against a closure order which is to take effect shall not have the effect of suspending the operation of the closure order, but the appellant may apply to the court to have the operation of the closure order suspended until the appeal is disposed of. The court may, if it thinks proper, direct that the operation of the order be suspended until the appeal is disposed of.
A person aggrieved by a closure order may, within 7 days, appeal against the order to the District Court. The judge may confirm, amend or cancel the order. On application as above, the closure order may be suspended.
A person who appeals or who applies for a suspension shall notify the Authority or official agency of the appeal and the grounds of appeal. He is entitled to appear and adduce evidence at the hearing.
The chief executive or other person, being an employee of the Authority or member of the Board authorized, may for stated reasons, revoke or vary a closure order. The Board is to be notified at the next available meeting of such revocation or variation.
Where a closure order has been served and activities are carried on in contravention of the order, the High Court may, on application of an authorised officer, prohibit the continuance of activities and order the closure of the premises. An application to the High Court shall be made on motion and the High Court, when considering the matter, shall make such interim and interlocutory orders as it considers appropriate.
The chief executive shall, in the interest of public health and consumer protection, make such arrangements as he considers necessary for bringing the contents of closure orders to the attention of the public.
Where as regards activities which involve the handling, processing, disposal, manufacture, storage, distribution or selling of food, an authorised officer is of the opinion that the activities involved a serious risk to public health, the officer may, following consultations with the chief executive or other officer of the Authority or an official agency designated serve a or arrange to have served, on the proprietor or the person in charge of the food in a premises a prohibition order.
The prohibition order shall state that the authorised officer is of the opinion that a particular
consignment, class, or batch or item of food should be withdrawn from sale. It shall specify the matters which in his or her opinion give rise to his opinion.
Where in his opinion any of the matters involve or will involve a contravention of food legislation, he is to state that opinion, and specify the provisions in respect of which he is of that opinion and give particulars of the reason for his opinion. He may in respect of all or any of the following, direct the person on whom the prohibition order is served to ensure that
• the food is not used for human consumption,
• is recalled from sale or distribution whether or not the food is on sale or being distributed in the State or elsewhere or as appropriate in the interests of public health,
• is rendered safe for human consumption or
• detained or is destroyed in a manner prescribed.
In the event of non-compliance or delay with compliance, an authorised officer of the Authority or agency shall following consultations with the chief executive or other officer of the Authority or agency so designated take whatever steps are considered necessary to ensure compliance with the direction. This may include seizure and destruction of the products in question and the making of arrangements for such seizure or destruction or both.
The Board is to be notified of the service of a prohibition order at its next meeting.
The chief executive shall, in the interest of public health, consumer protection, make arrangements as he considers necessary to bring matters giving rise to a prohibition order, notice to the attention of the public. He is to notify the competent regulatory authorities of other countries where the food is on sale or has been distributed.
A prohibition order shall take effect where the order so declares, or in other cases after the time limit for appeal has ended.
There are provisions for appeal in respect of a prohibition notice, withdrawing food similar to those in respect of closure order. The relevant appeal is to the District Court and is to be taken within seven days. Notice is to be given to the Authority or the appropriate agency of the appeal.
The chief executive or another person, employed by the Authority or member of the Board or authorised person may revoke or vary a prohibition order.
Where a prohibition order has been served and is breached, an application may be made to the High Court to prohibit the continuance of activities.
Notices to be served may be addressed to the person concerned and living at the address at which he ordinarily resides or carries on business;
• sending a prepaid registered letter to the address at which he ordinarily resides or carries on business;
• if the address for service of notices has been furnished by leaving it at such address;
• where the address of ordinary residence or business cannot be ascertained by reasonable inquiry may be delivered to a person at the premises over the age of 16, resident or employed in the premises or by affixing it on a conspicuous position in or near the premises.
Where there is a facility for fax or electronic notification, it may be sent by fax or e-mail.
Proceedings for a summary offence under the legislation may be brought by the official agency which has responsibility, immediately before commencement, for the enforcement of the food legislation.
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