This week, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) launched its vision and new strategy for the next 5 years, whilst also marking its 20th anniversary by revealing new research that provides an insight into consumer attitudes to food safety.

The FSAI’s new Strategy 2019-2023 sets out a clear roadmap with benchmarks for achievement to further protect consumers of Irish food here and abroad. It incorporates increasing compliance with the law amongst Irish food businesses through enhanced collaboration and by leveraging the best science and evidence to further national policy for the benefit of consumer safety in relation to food. The strategy was formally launched at a stakeholder event hosted at the Science Gallery, Dublin with which the FSAI also announced a new partnership as part of its 20-year commemoration.

The FSAI also revealed findings from its national attitudinal research* with consumers on food safety and hygiene, shopping habits and eating out, and concerns about food and the food industry. Overall, there is confidence in the safety of Irish food with nine out of ten people (89 percent) saying food is as safe or safer than it was 5 years ago. However, consumers themselves admitted that they demonstrate risky behaviors in relation to food handling at home. Nearly half of the Irish population (45 percent) do not pay full attention to ‘use-by’ dates, with 7 out of 10 people (72 percent) claiming that they have used food past its ‘use-by’ date. Just over 6 in 10 (62 percent) leave leftovers to cool out of the fridge overnight, to eat in the next couple of days, with nearly half the population (49 percent) storing food in the fridge without any wrapping.

A growing reliance on convenience food is also apparent, with 8 out of 10 people (84 percent) stating that they buy ready-to-eat or pre-prepared food from the supermarket, with over one third (36 percent) buying at least weekly or more frequently. Over 1 in 10 people use fast food chains or independent takeaways at least weekly (16 percent and 17 percent, respectively).

Welcoming the publication of the FSAI Strategy 2019-2023, the Minister of State with responsibility for Health Promotion, Catherine Byrne TD, said:     

“2019 marks 20 years of tireless work by the FSAI in promoting food safety and protecting public health. I am confident that through their new 5-year strategy, they will continue to build on this work, protecting the consumer and strengthening Ireland’s position as a leader in food safety and integrity.”

According to Dr. Pamela Byrne, CEO, FSAI the research undertaken will assist to inform and feed into wider thinking of its corporate strategy and enable it to verify its overall objectives and timing of actions.

“Our new strategy set outs the FSAI’s direction over the next 5 years to continue to be an effective state agency putting consumer health protection at the centre of all our activities. It incorporates a modern approach using collaboration with our partners, along with the best available science and evidence to deliver robust, proportionate and fair enforcement of the regulations. How and where we get our food is constantly changing with many factors impacting on food safety. Our strategy outlines our ambition, clear priorities and actions so that we are ready to adapt, always evolving and regulating swiftly within a rapidly changing food environment. It’s an exciting new roadmap for one of Europe’s first food safety regulatory agencies as we celebrate our 20th year. It will enable us to continue to build our reputation worldwide as a leading food safety regulator where swift adaption and response to changes in the external environment has shaped a progressive regulator,” she says.

“Over the course of the strategy, we will provide for the continuous development and empowerment of our people to deliver an impactful regulatory organization, both nationally and internationally. Research, evidence and science are critical to deepening our knowledge of the known risks and in identifying emerging risks to food safety and integrity. This, in turn, enables us to manage the risks to consumers and their health accordingly,” Dr. Byrne concludes.

The FSAI’s new strategy centers on four key goals built around its key areas of activity, namely:

  1. Enforcement and compliance
  2. Science, expertise, and evidence
  3. Communication and engagement
  4. Organizational excellence

The FSAI was formerly established in 1999 and at that time, was the first food safety authority in Europe, under the auspices of the Department of Health. Over the past 20 years, other member states have emulated the FSAI’s model and established similar competent authorities. The FSAI is an active participant at EU level both in terms of engaging and in terms of providing advice via the European Food Safety Authority, as well as being an important agency in an EU-wide rapid alert system for monitoring, notifying and reacting swiftly to food safety issues to protect consumer health.

*A national survey undertaken by Amárach in November 2018 consisting a representative sample of 1,000 adults aged 18+ years of age.