Internal concerns have been expressed about the “viability” of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), the agency responsible for co-ordinating the enforcement of food safety legislation.
In February, FSAI CEO Ms Pamela Byrne told the board that the “ongoing funding situation” was having a “significant impact upon the activities of the organisation and the morale of staff”.
Arising from the funding situation were “considerable risks to the FSAI and the consumer”, noted minutes.
The board discussed a letter from the Chair of the audit and risk committee regarding the “stark funding situation and the concern over the viability of the FSAI”.
According to the actions log, in December, the board requested that the then Minister for Health Simon Harris, and appropriate senior officials, be informed of the board’s “serious concern that the current funding profile will not enable the FSAI to fully deliver upon its legislative and regulatory obligations and this be completed by a letter from the FSAI board”.
The meeting in February also agreed to send a letter to the Department of Health Secretary General Mr Jim Breslin “outlining the restrictions the FSAI have been forced to implement and the risks to the consumer”.
A FSAI spokesperson told the Medical Independent: “Due to the challenging funding and resourcing constraints arising from costs of pay restoration, non-pay-related Brexit activities, and an increase in the resources required to meet the legal obligations, including those arising from protected disclosures made to the FSAI, it had to reduce or defer some of its activities in 2019 to 2020.
“The FSAI is in ongoing discussions with the Department of Health regarding the significant funding issues and potential associated risks to services and consumers.
“The FSAI recently received its 2020 budget allocation and while there was a welcomed increase of 7.5 per cent, the FSAI, however, remains in a challenging environment, as it strives to deliver its strategy and legal and regulatory mandate.”
The spokesperson said the FSAI “continues to prioritise the protection of consumers. In so doing, it endeavours to minimise the impact of any reduced or delayed activities on any possible resulting risk to consumer health or consumer interests.”
The FSAI is responsible for a range of functions to ensure food safety, including managing risks in the food chain and responding effectively to any national or international food incident or crisis.
Its core purpose is to protect consumers and raise compliance through partnership, science and food law enforcement.
The agency recently published a report outlining food-based dietary guideline recommendations for one-to-five year-old children living in Ireland. The report advises that water and milk are the only drinks recommended for this age group. Sugar-containing and acidic drinks should be limited and if consumed at all, be kept to mealtimes.