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Artisan Forum Meeting - 26th June 2023


  • Micheál O’Mahony, FSAI, Chair (MOM)
  • Darina Allen, Ballymaloe Cookery School (DA) – in person
  • Sally Barnes, Woodcock Smokery (SB) online
  • Donal Lehane, Chair of Community Food Group (DLe) online
  • Dave Lang, ACBI, (DL) – in person
  • John Brennan, Leitrim Organic Farming Co-op (JB) online
  • Kevin Brennan, Teagasc (KB) online
  • Kevin Sheridan, Sheridan’s Cheesemongers, (KS) (for Jeffa Gill) online
  • Elisabeth Ryan, Independent Craft Brewers (ER) online
  • Sean Kent, Poultry Producer, (SK) online
  • Siobhán Ní Ghairbhith, CÁIS, (SnG) (for Tom Dinneen) online
  • Sarah Furno, CÁIS, (SF) observer, in person


  • Jeffa Gill, Durrus Cheese, (JG)
  • Mary Regan, Regan’s Organic Farm (MR)
  • Simone Kelly, Rocket Foods, (SiK)
  • Tom Dinneen, CÁIS, (TD)
  • Hugh Maguire, Maguires Butchers, (HM)


  • Dearbhla Reynolds, Cultured Club, (DRe)
  • Eoin Bird, The Wooded Pig, (EB)
  • Eoin Cluskey, Bread 41, (EC)
  • William Cleary, Irish Beekeepers, (WC)
  • Penny Porteous Allen, Ballymaloe, (PPA)

In Attendance         

  • Eileen Lippert, FSAI (EL)
  • Rob Phillips, FSAI, (RP),
  • Eoin O’Brien, DAFM, (EOB)
  • Micheal Kane, DAFM, (MK)
  • Martin Rea, DAFM, (MR)
  • Colm Foley, Teagasc, (CF)
  • Linda Daniels, FSAI (LD)
  • Cormac McEhlinney, FSAI (CMcE)
  • Elaine Madden, FSAI (EM)
  • Anne-Marie Kierans, FSAI (AMK)


Micheál O’Mahony introduced himself as the new Chair of the Forum and welcomed all to the meeting. He introduced the three representatives in attendance from DAFM.

He invited the members to advise if they had any items for AOB and labelling of pesticides will be included in that section.

Agree Minutes of Meeting of 21 October 2022

The minutes of the previous meeting were approved without amendment.

Matters arising

There were no matters arising and members stated that actions were completed to their satisfaction.

Teagasc Bia Innovation Centre, Colm Foley

The Chair introduced Colm Foley from Teagasc who proceeded to give a presentation on Teagasc’s new Bia Innovation Centre in Co. Galway which is due to go live in September. Following the presentation CF addressed all queries and confirmed that should members wish to visit the facility they should contact Colm directly.

Agree minutes of the meeting on 21 April 2022

Action: EL to circulate presentation to the members.

Action: Members were encouraged to spread the word amongst their colleagues about the new facility.

Queries from a member of CÁIS

Sarah Furno, CÁIS member, attended as an observer to put the following questions to DAFM:

Question 1: Please can the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and the Marine confirm the national structure for inspections by the Department for Farmhouse Cheese sites?

  • Frequency of official controls carried for the purpose of verifying compliance with the regulation, number of inspectors on site, length of visit.

Noted: DAFM responded that inspections are carried out on a risk-based basis.

Question 2: Where inspections/testing for compliance with two different EU regulations are required i.e., Codex Alimentarius and Animal By Products please can the Department of Agriculture conduct these both at the same time?

  • In the instance of resource efficiency, can a structure be put in place whereby Hygiene Control Visits are coordinated with Animal By Product regulation compliance visits to minimise on site time and associated resources?

Noted: MOM clarified that as FSAI only has the remit for by-products for human consumption, only this aspect will be addressed at this meeting. SF requested some coordination of planning of inspections in order to free up some time for cheesemakers. She also requested that DAFM consider the implications for cheesemakers re disposal of animal by-products, i.e., whey.

Question 3: Please can the Department of Agriculture (The competent authority) set up a system whereby the craft cheese sector under the remit of CÁIS (the representative body) be consulted with regards to the development of regulation which may unintentionally place undue burden, on the craft sector?
Example: Cashel Farmhouse Cheesemakers were recently invited to attend The FSAI and DAFM Animal by Products seminar, to be advised on implementation of Regulation 142/2011. This regulation had been developed with consultation between regulatory authority and consultative body, Eucolait. Eucolait who are a dairy trading lobby group based in Brussels, made up of large dairy industry players, in an Irish context Ornua are members.

Key Concern: These larger processors have fully closed automated systems and typically handle all the processing of their whey on site and are not in a position to understand the scale and difference in approach to farmhouse cheesemaking and therefore could not represent the practicalities of implementation of such requirements for traditional smaller cheesemaking sites, often in remote sites. CÁIS recognise that it is in the interests of DAFM and FSAI to ensure diversity in food production, however, to facilitate this diversity and endurance of craft industry it is essential they are consulted.

Noted: DAFM responded that they are currently reviewing the existing inspection checklist which has been in place for 15 years and this is undergoing internal consultation.

Action: SF was invited to submit her suggestions and proposals re this directly to MR and MK for their review and consideration.

Question 5: Please can the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and the Marine advise the national training program for trainee inspectors with regards farmhouse cheesemaking?
The sector notes there are many new inspectors. Typical experience from farmhouse cheesemakers is that the inspectorate come from a background in industrial meat processing and have not received an introduction to traditional cheesemaking.

Background: CÁIS as part of the Farmhouse and Artisan Cheese & Dairy Producers European Network (FACE), contributed a European Community Guide for Good Hygiene Practices in the production of artisanal cheese and dairy products. As part of this a training program was developed to implement adapted “food safety management systems” in European Artisan and farmhouse Cheese and dairy production. This is known as the Teacheesy program CÁIS are keen to facilitate training of operators in in the sector and also see this training being relevant to inspectors to contribute to a consistent approach to inspection across the country. CÁIS propose, contingent on funding via Skillsnet that this program could be delivered to DAFM inspectors and EHOs.

Noted: DAFM noted variability in inspections but remarked that there are also variability amongst cheesemakers, so whilst harmonisation is desirable it should not be at the expense of flexibility and not all inspections can be the same.

Question 6: Please can DAFM advise if there is a farmhouse cheese expert group within the inspectorate and with whom we can liaise to facilitate this training program which is based on extensive experience across the EU? When is the next national training day?

Noted: DAFM confirmed that MR and MK are the people to contact with regards to this and confirmed that DAFM is happy to cooperate with producers but reminded members that they are a regulatory body. However, they acknowledged that the FACE document could be a very useful starting point.

Action: It was suggested that cheesemakers should decide where they want to align themselves, e.g., a farmhouse cheesemaker or an artisan cheesemaker. The CÁIS members present agreed to look further into this.

Action: EL to forward DAFM contact details to SF in order for her to directly liaise with them.

There was an additional query on the status of a labelling query submitted to the FSAI and discussed at previous Artisan Forum but the Chair reminded the member that the role of the Artisan Forum is not to highlight or discuss individual businesses. However, DAFM confirmed that the query in question is being looked into, and their general sharing of the concern expressed by Artisan forum members.

There was a query regarding the labelling of vegan cheese and it was confirmed that vegan cheese cannot be labelled cheese. This is an issue that DAFM is currently reviewing. FSAI also updated the meeting on some incidents of labelling of alternative proteins using terms which indicate those as meat. The FSAI is looking into this area and will share information with the Forum when its available.

Honey in Irish Supermarkets

DL confirmed that Michael Gleeson will be the honey representative on the Artisan Forum but, as he was unable to attend the meeting today DL is speaking on behalf of beekeepers today. He referenced an EU honey survey indicating a high prevalence of fraud in imported honey samples, and expressed concern about the extremely low price of honey for sale in supermarkets and offered the opinion that at this price it cannot be 100% honey and is likely adulterated with other sweeteners. He requested that FSAI renew its testing of honey, like it did 10 years ago. The FSAI responded by outlining areas of difficulty for fraud inspectors, particularly using laboratory techniques without firm legal basis, and that fraudsters are constantly changing their tactics and becoming more sophisticated thus making it difficult for science to keep up. Some measures put in place earlier this year for honey imports to EU were outlined by the FSAI, including authenticity attestation by the exporting Competent Authority and approval requirement for production establishments exporting to EU.

Agreed: FSAI clarified the high prevalence of fraud was detected in imported honey, as opposed to all honey on the EU market. The FSAI agreed that this was not an acceptable situation but is ultimately an EU-wide problem that cannot be addressed in isolation by Ireland. FSAI did not confirm if it could commit resources to a pure sampling and analysis exercise due to concerns around the robustness of such laboratory analysis but agreed to look into it and revert at a future meeting.

Action: DL to provide EL with Michael Gleeson’s contact details.


This issue was raised by SB who commented that someone is profiting from greenwashing and misleading labelling and gave some examples with fish. MOM commented that some terms such as organic are protected by EU law but other terms such as sustainable is not currently protected but is being addressed. Further discussion took place about the interpretation by many consumers of organic fish being wild, but this is not correct. The role of the FSAI to ensure that the consumer is not misled was reiterated and the FSAI recommended that this might be an issue for the artisans to take up with the organic associations.

Action: EL to circulate the draft document re green claims to the members for information.

Offal from Chicken Slaughterhouses

Action: Due to time pressures, this item was not discussed and will be on the agenda for the next Artisan Forum meeting.

Artisan Forum Terms of Reference and Membership

MOM introduced this and explained the rationale for having both a defined membership and specified Terms of Reference (ToR). The key objective is that these should provide a basis for a forum that is beneficial for both the FSAI and the Forum members and FSAI is interested in discussing, reviewing and amending them if deemed necessary. At this point it was suggested it would be useful for EHOs to be made aware of the FACE document referred to earlier as this would facilitate collaboration. It was also suggested that liaison between artisans and the inspectorate become a standing item on the agenda of future Artisan Forum meetings.

Action: EL to update the Artisan Forum membership on the FSAI website.

Action: Members urged to disseminate information from the Artisan Forum to other artisans and this point should be included in the ToR.

Action: EL to circulate to the membership list and their alternates to the members.

Agreed: The membership list needs to be reviewed to ensure its currency and completeness.

The FSAI will give further consideration to the TOR and may make proposals for consideration of the forum.

FSAI Updates including Brexit and EU Legislation

The Chair highlighted the need for certification in October 2023 if exporting to the UK food of animal origin. He also clarified that these are requirements of the UK Government and outside of the control of the FSAI. He recommended that members liaise with their local inspectors. The members commented on how good Irish authorities have been regarding Brexit and expressly thanked the Chair for his excellent help over the years.

The Chair also advised the Forum on upcoming changes in legislation re nitrates/nitrites which will result in reduced allowances and that there would be a two-year lead-in time.

Meat aging and how to do this is also under consideration as a specific regulatory proposal in EU legislation and the FSAI is liaising with ACBI on this.

MOM also informed the meeting that mobile slaughterhouses are under consideration within EU legislation, and he may have more information at a future meeting.

Action: Information from EFSA on meat aging is available in the hyperlink.

Action: FSAI will continue to keep members updated on any information that might be useful to small producers.


Pesticide labelling

Due to time constraints, this will be carried forward to the next meeting of the Forum.

Action: EL to send link to the report to members.

Artisan Member Survey

It was queried if a survey should be carried out to ascertain what sectors/categories should be represented on the Artisan Forum. KS advised that the newly established Boyne Valley Initiative could be a great assistance to the Artisan Forum as they plan to set up a database of artisan producers and artisan groups. It was queried if there is a definition of what an artisan is or is not? This can be checked in the Artisan Report issued by FSAI several years ago.

Format and Dates for meetings in 2023

The members agreed that there should be four meetings per year. Two will be online and two will be hybrid.

Date of next meeting to be confirmed.