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Saturday 1 October 2016

Report finds safety gap in controls at milk plants

Published 13/04/2015 | 02:30

Gaps in safety controls at Irish milk-processing plants have been highlighted in a Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) report
Gaps in safety controls at Irish milk-processing plants have been highlighted in a Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) report

Gaps in safety controls at Irish milk-processing plants have been highlighted in a Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) report.

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The recent audit report found that the Department of Agriculture failed to notify its local district veterinary office of repeated findings of antibiotic traces in milk from one farmer.

This meant there was no follow-up inspection of the farm during 2013 - even though six consecutive non-compliant antibiotic results had been found.

Antibiotic levels in milk are very strictly controlled to prevent consumers being exposed to animal medicines which could cause adverse reactions or result in essential human medicines becoming ineffective.

The FSAI report criticised the lack of internal communication in the department which meant no follow-up investigation took place at local level.

"The audit team was informed by the District Veterinary Office that had they been aware of these results, this would have triggered an on-farm inspection in order to assess the herd owner's control and usage of veterinary medicines where the withdrawal periods for these would have been checked," it said.

The report also noted that the herd owner had been visited by the milk purchaser, but had not been de-listed as an approved supplier.

The findings are in an FSAI report published in February 2015 which audited the Department of Agriculture's controls over liquid milk processing plants.

It came as the dairy industry began a massive expansion to take advantage of the end of EU milk quotas limiting production.

The department said in response to the FSAI audit finding it had put a new procedure in place to ensure follow-up action and/or targeting of a herd for inspection where there are multiple positive antibiotic results.

The FSAI report also highlighted a number of other shortcomings in departmental controls and drew up a checklist of essential improvements in how they monitor liquid milk plants. This includes new unannounced inspections of facilities in order to ensure audits are fully effective.

The FSAI said many of the department's audits of milk plants were comprehensive, with a good level of follow-up. However, in some cases important deficiencies had not been highlighted during the audit, while in others the food business operator had not corrected identified problems.

Irish Independent

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