Skip to main content

Artisan Forum Meeting - 9th March 2021


  • John Matthews, FSAI, Chair (JM) 
  • Darina Allen, Ballymaloe Cookery School (DA)
  • Sally Barnes, Woodcock Smokery (SB)
  • Elisabeth Ryan, Independent Craft Brewers (ER)
  • Donal Lehane, Chair of Community Food Group (DLe)
  • John Brennan, Leitrim Organic Farming Co-op (JB)
  • Simone Kelly, Rocket Foods, (SiK)
  • Kevin Brennan, Teagasc (KB)


  • Jeffa Gill, Durrus Cheese, (JG)

In Attendance

  • Eileen Lippert, FSAI (EL)
  • Tim Camon, FSAI, (TC)
  • Karl McDonald, FSAI (KMD)
  • Maria Meghen, FSAI, (MM)

Agree Minutes of the Previous Meeting – 5 November 2020

Agreed: The minutes were agreed subject to some amendments.

Matters Arising

Organic Certification

All actions from the previous meeting were followed up except the issue re organic certification which will be completed in advance of the next meeting.

Reduction of Plastics as it may Relate to Food Safety Concerns

Karl McDonald from the FSAI joined the meeting to address this issue and ER elaborated on this issue which she placed on the agenda. Some of the issues she raised were: are there hygiene issues being insisted upon by EHOs that requires the use of plastics? Who is responsible for information on the recycling of plastics? KMD elaborated that FSAI does not have a remit for the labelling of plastics and he gave a short summary of food contact materials (FCM) legislation. He added that the EU is in the process of reviewing this legislation from a safety perspective and it’s also looking at single-use plastics. KMD explained that there is no drive for food businesses (FBOs) to use plastics and reminded the members that FBOs need to ensure that the food contact materials they use are safe and hygienic. He added that alternatives to plastic might not always be safe/hygienic or reusable.

The Forum would like FSAI to actively explore the use of other materials than plastic and to encourage FBOs to look into other options. KMD explained that the FSAI is happy to assist businesses re FCM and he gave some examples where some FCM are not always as safe and as straightforward as first thought.

He reminded the members that new products need to undergo a very rigorous process in order to ensure that it is safe, and this is evident by reviewing the number of amendments made to FCM legislation. When asked if he was confident that FCM are safe he replied that all FCM must be authorised for specific uses and FBOs are responsible for ensuring their packaging is safe and fit for use. He told the members that evaluations are underway for certain substances and new FCM legislation will likely be available in 2023.

TC elaborated on the EU’s Farm-to-Fork strategy and some of the elements of this strategy include looking at food waste reduction, etc and reminded the members that packaging is often there to keep food safe from contamination. He commented on an internal WG in the FSAI which is looking into the food safety/ hygiene implications of the strategy and reminded members so stay alert for relevant consultations from the EU Commission.

Action: ER questioned if there are any resources re plastic on the FSAI website and KMD agreed to circulate a short note on his conversation today and he will include links to relevant resources.

Action: The Artisan members agreed to meet themselves to discuss precisely what they would like the FSAI to do and revert to the FSAI. Also, if they have any queries, please send them to Karl McDonald.

Requirement to Separate Animals over 30 Months being Processed from Younger Animals

Dave Lang who placed this on the agenda was not at the meeting. JM confirmed that he was in contact with DL earlier in the week and Dave had explained that this related to the under 30-month restriction on quality payments paid to farmers by meat processors.


Due to technical issues, TC chaired this part of the meeting. DA explained how glyphosate is a food safety issue and how more and more research is showing how dangerous it is. She also referred to a recent podcast with Zach Bush. TC reassured the Forum that EFSA is constantly reviewing glyphosate and have not found any issues and that the FSAI must follow these rulings. TC referred to a current consultation on pesticides and urged the members to submit their comments.

JB raised concerns about what is not known about how glyphosate interacts with the gut microbiome and urged that the precautionary principle to adopted regarding glyphosate and added that promoters should ensure its safety and that is has no impact on human health.

Following discussion, it was agreed that FSAI would forward Podcast and research material to Brendan Murray, DAFM as well as conveying their concerns about glyphosate including their view that the precautionary principle be applied.

SB added that some county councils, are now using vinegar for weedkilling and this initiative was lauded by the members.

KB also commented that Teagasc will hold some webinars/events that may be relevant to this issue and these details have already been circulated to the members. He also suggested that the AF feed into Bord Bia’s Quality Assurance Schemes re glyphosate.

DA elaborated on a successful French initiative called Qui est le Patron? This is now reaching the UK.

Action: Send podcast with Zach Bush to Brendan Murray, DAFM along with two pieces of research (DA to send to EL) and seek his opinion on these. Their safety concerns will also be included in communications with Brendan including their view that the precautionary principle be applied. EL will also send the EU Pesticides consultation link to the members so that DLe can send comments on behalf of the Forum and the members can encourage their peers to also submit comments.

Action: DA will contact APC in Cork to seek more information on glyphosate in the gut microbiome and will revert to FSAI with her findings.

FSAI Update

JM informed the members that:

  • there is a delay in progress on the guidance on fermentation.
  • FSAI continues to negotiate with CCMA and local authorities re veterinary services
  • TC attended the Oxford Real Farming conference and Biofarm 2020. He commented on the complexity of language/terminology used and suggested that this needs to be simplified in order to get the messages/information across to a wider audience especially farmers. This led to a request from JB for more resources to be made available for organic farming and for the need for farm advisers to change their mindsets which would then enable them to properly advise farmers. This issue led to a long discussion.
  • JB raised the matter that some poultry slaughterhouses have closed as there are issues regarding avian flu.
  • DA raised a labelling issue that her butcher is experiencing and JM address this and added that he will email his advice to DA and encouraged small businesses that they can contact JM directly with their queries.

Update from Teagasc

Kevin Brennan updated the members on some events that Teagasc will be holding in the near future, details of which have already been circulated to the members. He also advised the members that Eddie O’Neill has retired and there are plans to find someone else to take on this role.

The members wished Eddie O’Neill well in his retirement and thanked him for all his advices over the years. from Teagasc was unable to attend the meeting but he provided (see below) a list of online Teagasc events which may be of interest to the artisan members. They are all free to book e and are part of science week 2020.

KB also informed the members that Colm Foley, is the new food technologist in Athenry and he will be focussing on small businesses/producers.


Maria Meghen from FSAI’s Brexit team joined the meeting to address the queries from the members. She guided the members to section on the FSAI website where they can access information and also provided information on e-learning resources that are also available. She suggested that they subscribe to the Brexit e-zine in order for them to keep abreast of updates. She added that there is also a lot of information available on the website and that some useful webinars form the UK are also available. She commented that added that there is a stepped approach in place and that producers have some time to make changes. She recommended that small producers looking into getting an agent who can deal with the many issues involved and acknowledged that this adds to their operating costs.

Action: The members added that they would like the contact details of the Brexit Team and EL will circulate the email address to the members.

One of the members had a specific issue regarding the export of individual pieces of fish and MM confirmed that this is a query that needs to be directed to Revenue. SB also detailed several issues for artisan producers as they currently cannot export to the UK. SB also queried if there’d be derogations for artisan products as covid-19 and Brexit have made the situation very alarming for small producers. She also sought clarification re certification re freshwater fish and MM addressed this.

JB raised the issue that some seed companies are currently unable to import seeds into Ireland and he commented that Ireland will need to look into having more native seed supplies.


DA questioned what avenues are available to small producers if they have issues with an inspector and she elaborated on a case which she was informed about in advance of this meeting. DLe advised DA that she recommend to the producer she referred to engage a food technologist who will deal with the facts and take all emotion out of the situation. Other members shared their experiences of feeling bullied by inspectors and commented on how long it took to resolve the issue. She also recommended that the group should revisit the issue of having a mediator to deal with this type of issue. ER queried if the enforcement consistency group was still in operation since Dorothy Guina Dornan retired and she expressed the importance of consistency of inspection.

Action: JM will raise the issue of enforcement consistency with KMD who manages the HSE service contract.

Date of next meeting

The next meeting will take place on 19th October.