Consultative Council Meeting Minutes - 20 April 2010

Date & Venue: 20 April 2010 at 11:00am in the FSAI, Abbey Court, Lr Abbey St, Dublin 1

Members Present

Ms Veronica Campbell (Chair)
Ms Anne Marie Crowley
Mr Dermott Jewell
Dr J Gerard Barry
Mr Muiris Kennedy
Mr Martin Mullane
Mr Tim O’Brien
Ms Marie Brady
Mr Henry O’Neill
Ms Breda Raggett
Dr Fred Davidson
Ms Fiona Lalor
Mr Kevin Bracken

Apologies for Absence

Ms Darina Allen
Mr Bill Paterson
Ms Sara Morris
Mr Eoin McBennett
Mr Derek Deane
Ms Anne Quirke
Mr Eddie Byrne
Ms Margaret Leahy
Mr Peter Marshall
Ms Eileen Lippert

In Attendance

Mr Raymond Ellard - FSAI
Ms Judith Giles – FSAI
Dr Karl McDonald – FSAI
Dr Wayne Anderson - FSAI

1. Agree Agenda

The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting. The draft agenda was agreed.

2. Apologies for Absence

Apologies were noted by the Chair.

3. Minutes and Matters Arising

The minutes of the previous meeting of the FSCC were agreed. There were no matters arising.

4. Review of the Open Meeting

The Chair thanked the FSCC, in particular the Open Meeting Sub-committee, for helping to organise the Open Meeting on 3 February on the topic “Should Ireland’s Food be Irish”? It was agreed that the meeting had been very successful, had used a good format, generated a lot of interest and attracted considerable coverage in the media on the day and afterwards. The Council were satisfied with the venue and that the meeting was very professionally organised. The use of a facilitator proved worthwhile. Some members were of the view that the attendance on the day might have been better, but it was accepted that all stakeholder groups were represented. Others felt that the discussion should have allowed more time for the audience to participate.

In general the Council would like future meetings to attract more consumers and this will be a focus for the next Open Meeting.

Action: The Open Meeting Sub-committee to work with RE to do a presentation for the next Board meeting.

5. Appointment of the Open Meeting Sub-committee 2011

The Chair proposed that Muiris Kennedy, Marie Brady and Gerard Barry be appointed to the Sub-committee for next year. The topic for the meeting is very important to generate debate.

6. Update from FSAI

FSAI Merger:

The legislation required to underpin the merger with the IMB/OTC is not in place and therefore the proposed deadline of January 2011is unlikely to be met.

Reorganisation of FSAI:

Brian Redahan, former Director of the Consumer Protection Division left the FSAI recently. Staff in this division have been reallocated to one of two other divisions.

Outbreak of Norovirus in Oysters:

An outbreak of illness in the UK caused by Norovirus was associated with the consumption of raw oysters originating in Ireland. Harvesting ceased until remedial measures could be put in place. FSAI is seeking a scientific opinion from the European Food Safety Authority on the levels of norovirus in shellfish and this is not prescribed in EU law.

Campylobacter Press Release:

FSAI recently issued a press release on the need to control Campylobacter contamination. EFSA noted a high incidence of Campylobacter in poultry carcasses in Europe. An FSAI survey highlighted contamination of chicken packaging. Campylobacter is now the biggest cause of foodborne illness in Ireland and the FSAI is working with industry to reduce the incidence in poultry.

Food Law Guide for Artisan Producers:

The FSAI recently published a ‘Guide to Food Law for Artisan/Small Food Producers Starting a New Business’.

S.I. 117/2010:

The Department of Health and Children recently issued a new S.I. which gives new powers to EHOs and FSAI staff to close a food business operation for breaches of food law or to issue a prohibition order for any food that does not comply with food law. Guidance on how this can be implemented consistently will be necessary.

Action: RE to circulate S.I. 117/2010 to the FSCC.
Committee members can send in any comments to FSAI.


Headshops have received a lot of press recently. RE noted that the FSAI conducted a small survey to see if food products are being sold in these shops - some food products were found, but these are not the products which are the cause of concern. All food shops should be registered with the HSE and inspected. New legislation to deal with psychotropic substance is being prepared.

7. Salt Intake Reduction Campaign

At the request of the FSCC, Dr Karl McDonald gave a presentation on the ‘Salt Intake Reduction Campaign’. He thanked the Council for the opportunity and gave an overview of the campaign to-date. The following points were noted:

  • Too much salt causes high blood pressure leading to hypertension, stroke, heart disease etc.
  • The recommended levels of salt for adults is 4g/day; proportionately lower for children.
  • Approximately, 70-80% of salt comes from processed foods; it is also naturally occurring, added at table or added during cooking.
  • It is found in a wide variety of ingredients in processed foods e.g. flavourings, preservatives, colours, artificial sweeteners etc.
  • Salt has a number of functions in foods e.g. a flavour, a preservative and it controls yeast growth in bread.
  • There is no legislation controlling salt in foods, however Regulation 1924/2006 on Nutrition and Health Claims indicates what claims manufacturers are permitted to make in relation to salt.
  • Approaches to reducing salt in food include decreasing expectations of saltiness in food over 6-8 weeks; voluntary reduction by industry; substitution with other ingredients; enhancing salt properties in food.
  • A voluntary reduction programme has been in place in Ireland since 2003. The FSAI has identified high salt food groups, negotiated commitments with industry; published progress reports annually, carried out salt surveys, monitored salt levels, used the salt model to examine levels, set up the Salt Reduction Advisory Group.
  • Commitments have been negotiated with trade bodies e.g. IBEC for manufacturers, through the Retail Forum for retailers and through the Food Service Forum for the service sector, caterers and wholesalers. The food service sector has yet to be addressed
  • There are 63 participants in the programme, including trade bodies representing a number of food businesses.
  • Between 2005-2007, the programme achieved a 7% reduction in salt levels in foods (10% for bread; 9.5% for processed meats) which is significant. Results are due this year for the period 2007-2010.
  • Provisional data for sodium intake is available for children and teenagers.
  • It is difficult to give an exact figure on the health impact of the programme – estimates that a 7% reduction has given 6,942 QALY (quality adjusted life years) in Ireland, with an economic value of €238 million.
  • An EU High Level Group was set up in 2008 which aimed at achieving a 16% reduction in salt levels over four years for all Member States, where countries could select 5/12 food groups to work on. Ireland is ahead of this.

In conclusion, significant progress has been made but there is a lot of work to do. Technological barriers also exist. The FSAI target of 6g/day salt by 2010 will not be achieved. The challenge for FSAI is to gain further commitment from industry and to increase communication on salt reduction programme to the public.

8. Discussion

The Chair thanked Dr McDonald for his presentation. There was some discussion on the topic:

  • There is no need to distinguish ‘salt’ and ‘sodium’ as consumers don’t understand ‘sodium’ and the contribution of additives to salt levels is low compared with salt (sodium chloride).
  • Mass catering was identified as an area to be addressed. The DoHC is looking at the food service sector There is no plan to introduce legislation on salt levels in food.
  • Authorities cannot control over how much salt a consumer adds to their food at the table or what products they buy.
  • It was noted that generally, consumer demand for low salt products is low. If salt is reduced in existing products, sales decrease. New similar products with lower salt seem to be more attractive. Manufacturers therefore are reluctant to vary the composition of existing products.
  • Salt also performs a technological function in some foods, which limits the quantity which can safely be removed.
  • The Council were of the view that change consumer behaviour is required and greater public awareness is key. Campaigns should focus on the whole diet rather than single issues messages.
  • It was suggested that safefood could be more involved in promoting public awareness but they have budget constraints.

Recommendations to the Board:

  • A broad and targeted public awareness campaign.
  • Research into behavioural change.
  • Get the FSAI, safefood and the Irish Heart Foundation together to discuss what can be done.

Action: RE to ask Kenneth McKenzie, UCD to talk to the FSCC at the next meeting if possible about behavioural change.

9. AOB

There were no other matters for discussion.

10. Date and Theme of Next Meeting

The date of the next meeting is Tuesday, 29th June. The topic for discussion will be “Risk Basis for Inspection Frequencies”.

The chair thanked everyone for their contribution and for attending the meeting.

Last reviewed: 9/7/2010

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