In light of growing awareness of the need to reduce food waste and an increase in food donations to combat food poverty, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) today published four new guidance documents for charities and donating food businesses to ensure that the highest food safety standards are maintained to protect consumer health.
One in eight people living in Ireland are experiencing food poverty*, while food waste in Irish businesses accounts for 750,000 tonnes per year, with 300,000 tonnes coming from retail and catering businesses and over 400,000 tonnes generated by the industrial food processing sector**. Often this food is suitable for redistribution, so food businesses offer unsold or nonsalable food items to charities. The FSAI’s free guidance documents have been created to ensure safety procedures are followed at all times.
According to Dr Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive, FSAI, the growth in awareness and the increase in food donation to reduce food waste over the past number of years is to be welcomed, but that like all operators in the food supply chain whether donating, receiving or handling donated food they must comply with the law in relation to food safety. The aim of these new guidance documents is to make it as easy as possible to comply with food law.
“Both receiving charities and donating food businesses must abide by food safety guidelines at all time so that public health is protected. The same high standards for food safety applied to food that is sold must apply to food that is donated also. All businesses under the law must have a traceability system in place to enable the swift and efficient recall of a product in the event of a food safety issue. Businesses must also ensure that labelling information is accurate. This includes use-by and best-before dates, instructions for use and allergen information.
Food businesses can choose to donate food once it is safe and in a condition that would allow the product to still be sold. Food donation may arise at any stage of the food production and distribution chain for a number of different reasons. In certain cases, errors in the labelling or packaging could mean that the perfectly safe food will not be entered into the marketplace and so is available for donation.
With advances in technology and corporate goodwill from food businesses, we have seen a welcome increase in charities and community based initiatives receiving food donations throughout Ireland. The FSAI must commend the outstanding work being done by charity organisations and commercial food businesses which is not only benefitting communities, but also our environment by reducing waste going to landfill.
"These partnerships have the best intentions to help people, but with this, there also comes a great degree of responsibility. Food safety is paramount and all food businesses, including food banks/food redistribution centres, are required to put in place and maintain a food safety management system so they protect the people who ultimately will benefit from the food donation. We are confident that our new guides will strengthen and enhance practices and will enable charitable organisations to ensure that they are operating to the highest standards.”
The FSAI also has a number of other resources to assist food businesses comply with the law and implement high standards. These include a Safe Catering Pack as a tool to help caterers develop a system to manage food safety. It includes a workbook (which presents options for businesses to choose how they are going manage food safety), a set of record books along with a DVD to explain how to use the pack. A free Safe Catering Pack is available to all charities by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and giving its charity number.