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Audit of the Microbiological Classification of Shellfish Waters (SFPA)

Thursday, 28 November 2019

The FSAI today publishes its Audit of the Official Controls Undertaken by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) Regarding the Microbiological Classification of Shellfish Waters. The FSAI has overall responsibility for the enforcement of food law in Ireland. It carries out targeted audits of food businesses to determine the level of compliance with current food law and the effectiveness of its implementation.

This targeted audit of food businesses was undertaken as part of the FSAI’s 2018 planned programme of audits. The audit conducted between November 2018 and April 2019 was to verify compliance by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) with relevant legislative requirements and the SFPA’s Code of Practice for the Microbiological Monitoring of Bivalve Mollusc Production Areas on Classification. The project involved audits at SFPA Headquarters (HQ) and three port offices.

The primary objective of the audit was to verify compliance by SFPA with Community Reference Laboratory’s Community Guide to Good Practice, the SFPA’s Code of Practice for the ‘Microbiological Monitoring of Bivalve Mollusc Production Areas on Classification’ and other relevant legislation.

There is a structured approach to the official controls undertaken by the SFPA under this legislation. An annual food safety control plan provides a baseline framework for the official controls carried out by the SFPA’s staff. Staff performing these controls use guidance contained in documented procedures and have the legal powers to enforce the relevant legislation. In relation to the classification of shellfish waters, the SFPA has fixed the location and boundaries of the production areas it has classified as required by Regulation 854/2004. Detailed sampling plans for production areas are in place, follow up is taken when out of range results are detected and there is an annual review of the overall classification status of each area. However sanitary surveys have not yet been completed for all newly classified or existing production areas. Currently there is a programme in place to complete 10 such surveys.

The report makes a series of recommendations and where breaches were identified, corrective actions have been specified.

The audit report and corrective action plan are available here.