Food allergy fears after record level of product failures
The number of public alerts about food ingredients - which could trigger potentially fatal allergic reactions - rose to the highest level in a decade last year.
Milk, soybeans, eggs and nuts were the most common allergens either incorrectly labelled or undeclared, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) revealed.
Three in every 100 people in Ireland have a food allergy and some reactions to ingredients like nuts can result in death.
The watchdog's chief executive Dr Pamela Byrne said the increase in the number of public alerts to 39 last year is a warning to businesses to put rigorous systems in place to ensure safe products are put on the market.
The food alerts, which resulted in either product recalls or withdrawals from the Irish market, also included the presence of a foreign body or contamination.
They included the presence of an amphetamine-like substance; unauthorised novel food ingredients and in one case insufficient sterilisation of the product.
Some confectionery items contained plastic pieces and salmonella was found in soups, broths, sauces and condiments.
Inspectors also discovered the germ listeria monocytogenes in prepared food dishes, snacks and milk products. It can cause serious illness in some at-risk groups including pregnant women, cancer patients and the elderly.
"We urge food businesses to take their responsibilities seriously, to have robust food safety management systems in place and to take full advantage of all the information and support provided to ensure they are meeting their food safety obligations," Dr Byrne said.
"We also encourage anyone who wants to be notified about the food alerts or food allergen alerts that they can subscribe to get FSAI email alerts directly.
"Also, anyone with an allergy can subscribe to receive an email and/or SMS text alert notification which is free."