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Retail Forum - 19th March 2015

Minutes of Meeting of the Retail Forum - 19th March 2015

TIME: 11:00


Lisa O’Connor, FSAI (LO’C) [Chair]
Tracy McDermott, Tesco (TMcD)
Elaine Clohosey, BWG Foods (EC)
Mary Daly, Dunne’s Stores (MD)
Shane Lyster, IBEC (SL)
Selena Burke, ADM Londis (SB)
Lynda Kenny, Musgrave (LK)
Jonathan Halls, Boots (JH)
Sarah Wood, Aldi (SW)
Peter Wight, Marks & Spencer, (PW)
Mark Gannon, Lidl (MG)
Suzanne Cullen, Musgrave (SC)
Lucy Magner, Pallas Foods (LM)
Rob McEvoy, Topaz (RMcE)
Denise Lord, Gala, (DL)


Eileen Lippert, FSAI (EL)
Gail Carroll, FSAI (GC)
Pat O’Mahony, FSAI (PO’M)
John Matthews, FSAI (JM)
Wayne Anderson, FSAI (WA)
Pamela Byrne, FSAI (PB)
Shaun Smith, UCD (SS)
Declan Bolton, Teagasc (DB)
Mary Flynn, FSAI (MF)
Peter Jackson, Barry’s Wholesalers (PJ)
Dorothy Guina Dornan, FSAI (DGD)
Aoife Harrison, Lidl (AH)
Ray Bowe, Musgraves (RB)

Preliminary Results of FIRM Campylobacter Project

Noted: LO’C welcomed Shaun Smith (SS) and Declan Bolton (DB) to this part of the meeting and invited everyone to briefly introduce themselves. LO’C reminded members that the aim of the FIRM study was to validate recommendations in FSAI’s 2011 Scientific Committee Report. SS’s talk on the impact of biosecurity on Campylobacter prevalence at first and final thin, covered the following points:

  • A description of how biosecurity was assessed and farms categorised
  • Results of prevalence and counts in good v. bad biosecurity farms at first and final thin
  • Conclusions - good biosecurity farms are keeping Campylobacter out more often than bad and thinning is a huge breach of biosecurity.

Action: EL will circulate the presentation to the members.

Noted: LO’C thanked SS and invited questions. Much discussion took place covering a number of points, including: 

  • The results show that reductions in Campylobacter can be made with existing infrastructure, coupled with effective implementation of biosecurity practices. 
  • The importance of increasing awareness among farmers of the problem and the role they can play in reducing contamination 
  • The need for monitoring of broiler flock so that farmers can assess the effectiveness of their own biosecurity
  • The challenge for any sector, is that those who most need to attend training often don’t and vice versa
  • Training might best be carried out on a model farm rather than a classroom situation
  • The need for a bonus incentive scheme in Ireland to build on the training and drive changes in practices 
  • The ineffectiveness of disinfection of feeders and water lines
  • The ineffectiveness of foot dips
  • The complexity of the issue and the need to continue to chip away at it at each stage in the food chain because even very good biosecurity does not guarantee Campylobacter free flocks
  • At processing level it was noted that the current Commissioner for Health and Food Safety is not in favour of chemical decontamination, as used outside Europe. 
  • In the UK, two process hygiene control measures are being piloted – rapid surface chilling & sono-steam. 
  • The possibility of stopping the practice of thinning (where a portion of birds are removed, while the remainder are allowed to grow to a larger size). Is there a need for birds of different sizes at retail level? 
  • Unless industry can find a way to thin which does not breach biosecurity, it will have to be stopped and the market will have to adjust. Recognised obstacles to stopping include: 
    • Commercial cost to farmers
    • Extra floor space required (estimated to be approx. 18% ) and issues around obtaining planning permission
    • Reduced availability of Irish chicken until sufficient houses are built
    • Market demand for chicken of various sizes
  • It was queried whether retailers have looked at the cost of stopping thinning. One retailer has and stated it was expensive but could not provide details, as it was commercially sensitive data. 

Noted: Marks and Spencer were complimented on their five-point plan. PW shared some of his observations during the pilot scheme – these included:

  • The importance of changing attitudes and cultures
  • The positive effect of the bonus scheme on biosecurity practices – he made a comparison with the milk sector, where milk quality improved dramatically when a bonus scheme was introduced. 

Noted: DB raised the issue of re-design of houses, in particular new houses. Simple solutions like having two doors – one for entry and another for exit. Installing corridors between houses, to eliminate the need to change clothing and footwear on entering each house. Pre-filling a house with litter and the use of cameras – both of which would decrease the number of entries into a house. He also discussed some preliminary work on fly screens.

Action: DB referred to a recent industry webinar on Campylobacter and EL will circulate the link to the members.

Noted: 'Cook-in-the-bag’ chickens was identified as a possible solution for reducing the risk for some consumers but it was seen as unlikely that the majority would switch to this product. Both the increased cost and the preference for many consumers to stuff or season a bird, according to their own preference, were seen as obstacles.

Noted: Before SS and DB left the meeting, LOC thanked them for their contribution. She advised members that the FIRM Project Committee has undertaken to produce a document outlining biosecurity best practice for Ireland. She also highlighted that results from the project, not presented today, were going to lead to a revision of one of the recommendations of the 2011 FSAI report– i.e. a change from an enumeration test to a presence/absence test for the broiler flock testing.

Introduction of Pamela Byrne, New CEO of FSAI

Noted: The members introduced themselves briefly to the new CEO. She thanked them for their contribution to the forum and noted that it has been an excellent conduit to disseminate clear messages to the retail industry. She went on to introduce herself and give an outline of her career to date.

Update on Campylobacter – Members Plans to Reduce Campylobacter in Poultry Sold in their Stores

Noted: LO’C thanked members who had submitted updates on their organisations’ Campylobacter control measures.

Action: Members, who have not already done so, were requested to send in their written updates. Members were asked to share findings on effective control measures and the few members who had not yet done so, were asked to introduce leak-proof packaging as soon as possible.

Noted: There was a tour de table where members gave a summary of their Campylobacter reduction initiatives:

Dunnes Stores

Use leak-proof packaging and have ‘do not wash’ instructions on labels.

Marks and Spencer Ireland

PW elaborated on the five-point plan that is running in the UK: (1) Farmers bonus scheme; (2) zero thinning (3) blast surface chilling (4) improved labelling (5) cook-in-the-bag.


SC gave the update on behalf of RB. Leak-proof packaging has made a huge impact on
cleanliness and hygiene in shelves in store.


Use ‘Do not wash’ front-of-pack labelling and leak-proof packaging. Tesco is also conducting research on farms in the UK. This led to some discussion about on-farm audits and TMcD confirmed that Tesco does carry out on-farm audits and that she would be happy to discuss their audit process with FSAI.


Do not wash labelling and leak-proof packaging.


Gala doesn’t do its own labelling of poultry products. They rely on their nominated approved
poultry suppliers regarding packaging and labelling requirements.

Action: DL will liaise with her suppliers to seek an update and clarity on ‘do not wash’ instructions labels.


RMcE stated that Topaz does not sell raw poultry, but it trains staff in raw meat handling. He questioned the effectiveness of cook-in-the-bag chicken as many people will remove the chicken to add seasoning. He also addressed the ‘do not wash’ issue - some people will want to continue to wash raw poultry as they have always done and will not be convinced of the risk.


SW stated that she does not believe that this can be addressed at only one point of the food
chain. She explained that Aldi is trialling various types of packaging and labelling in the UK.
Aldi are working on establishing robust scientific evidence before implementing each measure.

Agreed: SW happy to share relevant data with other members should they request it.


Stores have ‘do not wash’ signage on shelves where poultry is stored. EC welcomed the sharing of information on effective on-farm control measures and suggested that sharing of best practice at each stage of the food chain was the best way to tackle this problem.

Agreed: All retailers should use the same text regarding not washing on their label.

Action: All members to send in the text they use on their labels to EL. FSAI can then prepare wording for agreement by the forum.


LK explained that this is RBs remit as her section doesn’t have any own brand raw chicken on sale in retail, it is food service product sold to industry. She highlighted the need to continue to improve consumers’ awareness of the risk of washing chicken.

Noted: It was noted that thorough cooking of chicken will destroy Campylobacter. The biggest challenge for the consumer is likely to be preventing cross-contamination between raw and ready-to-eat food preparation.


Londis is doing the same as other retailers, except for the on-pack labelling. SB queried if the level of contamination is as high with chicken portions. LO’C clarified that this would depend on whether the portions were skinless or not, as the skin is the most contaminated part.

Pallas Foods

As wholesalers, most of their chicken is sold to industry rather than consumers.

Action: LM undertook to find out how their customers, who are butchers, communicate food safety messages to their customers.

Retail Ireland

As it is an industry representative body, it does not sell chicken. SL expressed disappointment
about how the issue was dealt with by the media and how the grocery retail industry was
portrayed on recent episodes of RTE's The Consumer Show.

Action: Members are requested to email EL with the date of introduction of leak-proof packaging to their organisations/stores.

Noted: Members suggested that FSAI should meet with all the processors as there is only so much that retailers can do. It was clarified that apart from Tesco, who conduct some farm audits, the retailers don’t meet with the farmers. They deal with the processors. FSAI clarified that since the FIRM project results started to validate the 2011 Report recommendations, FSAI has been meeting with stakeholders individually, prior to reconvening the stakeholder group.

Action: WA expressed an interest in meeting with the retailers who offered to follow-up with meetings.

Noted: Before leaving the meeting, WA expressed his strongly held view that retailers were not doing enough to reduce Campylobacter and they needed to start identifying opportunities for improvement with their suppliers. Retailers should find the finance to incentivise production of Campylobacter free flocks. Retailers also need to require processors to monitor the Campylobacter status of flocks and to conduct process hygiene testing at the end of slaughter, as recommended in the 2011 FSAI report. JM supported WA in this view and noted that the FIRM project research has validated the recommendations of the FSAI 2011 report.

Agree Minutes of Meeting of 26 November 2014

Agreed: The minutes were agreed subject to two amendments:

  • Labelling of gluten - PW made a comment that the issue of the labelling of gluten is still under discussion at EU level. 
  • Avian flu and free-range birds - EU derogation is now available regarding the housing of birds for 10 weeks due to avian flu threats. 

Action: EL undertook to clarify the situation on gluten labelling.

Matters Arising

EFSA opinion on the transmission of Ebola via the food chain

Action: Part two of this opinion was recently issued and EL will circulate to the members. It concluded that there is no evidence that the Ebola virus can be transmitted through food in the European Union.


Action: PW informed the members that OPSON 4 is complete and that there will be a meeting the following week to complete the report which can then be circulated to the members.

Stolen Animals and Meat Potentially ending up in the Food Chain

Noted: PW gave a presentation about food fraud including information about stolen animals and meat potentially ending up in the food chain. He stressed the need for retailers to be vigilant and to use only trusted suppliers.

Allergen Labelling

Noted: PJO’M joined the meeting to discuss any issues the members have in implementing the rules regarding allergen labelling of non-pre-packaged foods. He encouraged the members to contact the FSAI or their local Environmental Health Service if they identify any inconsistencies in the inspection of this legislation.

Noted: Members commented that the initial production of the allergen information is not so difficult but the work involved to ensure it remains up-to-date is challenging (e.g. the cost of reprinting material due to a change made by a supplier). Retailers mentioned that they would have preferred a verbal option rather than the written one. PJOM acknowledged that its’ not a perfect system and that there are teething problems, costs and difficulties involved but added that this is a safety issue. He recommended that retailers liaise more with their suppliers.

Agreed: The matter of ‘may contain’ was raised and PJOM advised that each business should carry out its own risk assessment to determine whether or not to include this.

Update on the Use of the Term “Butter”

Noted: A document has been prepared on this issue and FSAI has consulted with Retail Ireland. FSAI will incorporate the agreed changes to the document.

Action: SL will liaise with his members regarding the document and EL will circulate the documents to the forum members.

Update on Menucal

Noted: MF joined the meeting at this point and she gave the background to Menucal and described the massive consumer support the initiative has received. She explained that the system is currently being adapted to enable it to be used to store allergen information. The system has been trialled in a hospital and FSAI is in the process of addressing some of the issues encountered. It is hoped to launch the updated version in June. MF believes Menucal will be a very valuable tool to industry. FSA NI will liaise with FSAI on the e-learning aspect of the initiative. She added that the calories on menus initiative is currently voluntary but that the Minister for Health is in favour of making it mandatory. This led to lengthy discussions.

Noted: PW suggested that the Minister for Health should liaise with the relevant industries if he goes ahead with this and also pointed out that industry is of the view that including kilojoules in addition to calories on menus will cause confusion.

Noted: FSAI will pass on the issues raised here to the Dept of Health to assist the Dept in drafting the proposed legisaltion. Members were also reminded that they could approach the Department as a group, as they did to discuss the legislation on the allergen labelling of loose foods, to ensure that practical issues were addressed in the legislation.

Action: Due to time constraints it was not possible to deal with every query, so members were invited to send their queries to EL who will pass them to Mary Flynn.

Updated on Egg Storage Guidance for Retailers

Noted: A revised version of the Egg Storage Guidance for Retailers was distributed to the members at the meeting and LOC clarified a few matters and explained that FSAI was following up on some legal queries.

Action: EL will email this version of the document to the members and members should revert to EL with their comments. A final version will be circulated for electronic sign off.

Update on Quality and Qualification Ireland

Noted: LOC gave a short update on this and that a draft document will be available for public consultation soon.

Action: EL will circulate the aforementioned document to the members when it becomes available.

Information Sharing

Noted: Nobody had anything to share. Members are welcome to contact the FSAI directly if they had any concerns.


Country of origin labelling

Noted: LOC advised that the Dept. of Agriculture, Food and the Marine will soon be posting on their website information about the country of origin labelling of raw cuts of pre-packed meats which comes into effect on 1st April.


Noted: LOC informed the members that HSE will be carrying out surveillance of dried nuts, seed and fruit. Salt monitoring also continues.

Date of Next Meeting

Action: EL will circulate a doodle poll with potential dates for the next meeting.