Consultative Council Meeting Minutes - 10th May 2012

Meeting of the Food Safety Consultative Council Date & Venue: May 10th at 11:00 in the FSAI boardroom

Members Present

Ms Veronica Campbell (Chair), [VC]
Mr Tim O’Brien, [TO’B]
Ms Maree Gallagher, [MG]
Ms Margaret Leahy, [ML]
Ms Breda Raggett, [BR]
Ms Susanne Boyd, [SB]
Ms Paula Mee, [PM]
Ms Sinead Finnegan, [SF]
Mr Ray Bowe, [RB]
Mr Cormac Healy, [CH]

Apologies for Absence

Mr Dermott Jewell, [DJ]
Mr Martin Roper, [MR]

In Attendance

Mr Raymond Ellard, [RE]
Prof. Alan Reilly, [AR]
Ms Eileen Lippert, [EL]
Dr Mary Flynn, [MF]

1. Welcome and Opening Remarks

Ms Veronica Campbell (Chair) welcomed everybody including both new and returning members to the first meeting of the newly appointed Food Safety Consultative Council (FSCC). Prof. Alan Reilly Chief Executive of the Food safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) also welcomed all the members. He explained that half of the membership is appointed by FSAI and the remainder are nominated by the Minister for Health. The Minister’s nominees will join the Council once they are made known to FSAI. Prof. Reilly thanked the member for their willingness to serve on the Council. He stated that as the Authority is obliged to consult on its work, it values the external input and advice from the FSCC.

2. Introduction of the Members

At the request of the Chair each member gave a short background introduction about themselves.

3. FSAI Statement of Strategy and the FSCC – Raymond Ellard

RE gave a presentation, a copy of which was distributed to the members on the FSAI’s current Statement of Strategy 2012-2015 and a copy of the FSAI statement of strategy was given to all the members. During his presentation Mr Ellard gave a brief background to FSAI, explained its role and corporate structure including the details of the executive management group and the corporate governance arrangements. He explained the current statement of strategy, its intent and specific objectives and the linkages between these and the work plans of the FSAI’s divisional and individual members of staff. The strategy was created in the understanding of the need to protect consumers, the importance to health and the economy of safe Irish food and the necessity of maintaining a visible and credible regulator. He outlined the various elements of the strategy such as the organisation’s mission statement, and strategic priorities. There were some questions which were then addressed.

4. “Calories on Menus” – Mary Flynn

Prof. Mary Flynn, FSAI’s Chief Specialist in Public Health Nutrition gave a presentation on the Department of Health proposal that restaurants and other caterers should provide customers with information on the energy (calorific) value of the foods served, often referred to as “Calories on Menus”.

She explained the increasing levels of overweight and obesity in Ireland’s population, the widespread availability of foods with high calories contents, and the general lack of knowledge or appreciation on the part of the general population of the energy value of their diets. Describing how this initiative has worked in other countries, she spoke of the evidence for resulting benefits. Examples of how such a scheme might work were given and she spoke of current voluntary measures.

A copy of the presentation was distributed to the members at the meeting along with a copy of the draft technical guidance for food businesses and a background document. The presentation sparked much comment and debate. It also led to a discussion on taxes on fat and sugar and the impact some of these taxes have had in other countries. She reported that while the industry might see difficulties in complying with a compulsory scheme, the majority of consumers who responded to the FSAI consultation were in favour. Members made numerous comments. While generally many welcomed the proposal, some feared that it may prove to be a blunt instrument. Some anecdotal evidence was provided in support of this claim. Calories on menus is not an entire solution and FSAI needs to look at the entire cause of obesity and overweight in Ireland. The Council also cautioned on the need for practicality. Members also felt that the scheme had the potential to impact teenagers who are very weight conscious, but education on nutrition needs to be provided in schools. FSAI will keep the members informed.

5. Topics for Future Meetings

VC explained, for the benefit of the new members, how the FSCC works. It chooses a topic or two per meeting and relevant speakers/experts are invited to speak to the members. The FSCC will then form an opinion on the issue which will be passed onto the FSAI Board. Members were asked to suggest topics for future meetings and in addition to the ones proposed by the FSAI (calories on menus; future of meat inspection; sugar tax; food labelling), the following were proposed:

  • More information about sprouting seeds, wheatgrass and labelling thereof;
  • Proteins and ergogenic aids – their available and enforcements;
  • Health supplements;
  • Fat tax;
  • Rapid alert system;
  • Animal feed;
  • GMOs;
  • Scores on the doors systems

Members were invited to send any other suggestions to the FSAI and it was acknowledged that additional issues would occur over the duration of the FSCC. Controls on sprouting seeds and proposed sugar/fat taxes were agreed as points for discussion at the next meeting

6. Dates of Future Meetings

The next meeting will take place in September at a date to be agreed.

Action: EL will circulate a doodle poll to arrange the most agreeable date for members. The topic/theme for the meeting will be sprouting seeds and a sugar and fat tax.

A third meeting of the FSCC will take place in November at a date yet to be decided and the open meeting will take place in January 2013.

7. AOB

Ethnic Food Sector

It has been noticed that a large number of restaurants that are closed by the FSAI through its official agencies are in the ethnic food sector. It is unknown why this is the case and RE explained that FSAI provided ‘train the trainer’ courses to several restaurants and this has been of some benefit. The “safe catering pack” is also available and several relevant publications have been translated into several languages. The FSAI is looking into other possibilities but efficacy and cost has to be taken into account The “scores on the doors” system in N. Ireland were briefly raised and anecdotal evidence of major improvements since this was established was discussed.

Action: SB referred to research carried out by an EHO in Derry on ethnic food culture and she will forward this to EL for further circulation.

 

Last reviewed: 11/1/2013

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