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National Microbiological Surveillance 2001

General Introduction

Increasingly microbiological surveys are being used to focus resources in food inspection services. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) recognised that some health boards have been involved in conducting local surveys for a number of years. It was decided to use this tool at national level to:

  • Obtain a national picture on the microbiological safety of high-risk foods. These data will be used to highlight problems to industry or in the event of a satisfactory outcome will enable sampling resources to be redirected to other high-risk foods.
  • Monitor microbiological trends by designing new surveys to build on existing data.
  • Determine the true microbiological quality of a foodstuff by utilising the randomness of survey sampling.
  • Take advantage of the reduced number of parameters, for which a survey sample is analysed, to enable a greater number of samples to be analysed.
  • Use the surveys to increase the uniformity of sampling and analysis in the food safety inspection service.

An additional objective of the 2001 surveys is to establish and improve upon the survey methodology. Logistical problems such as 'out of hours' sampling, sampling of hot foods and the availability of facilities for testing for E. coli O157:H7 are limiting the type of commodity suitable for surveillance studies. These issues will be addressed in due course. Similarly, in the future it is hoped to enhance the quality of the surveys by recording environmental details e.g. storage temperatures.

Survey Topics

Details of the four microbiological surveys undertaken in 2001 are outlined in Table 1. Topics for the first 3 surveys were agreed following consultation with Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) and the Official Food Microbiology Laboratories (OFMLs). The fourth survey was undertaken for the European Union (EU) as required under the EU Coordinated Programme for the Official Control of Foodstuffs and as specified in Commission Recommendation (2001/337/EC).

Table 1: National Microbiological Surveillance 2001

Period Topic Microbiological parameters tested
January - March 2001 Cakes and Pastries with Perishable Fillings and Toppings
Executive Summary and Report 
Escherichia coli 
Staphylococcus aureus
April - June 2001 Refrigerated Cooked Chicken Pieces
Executive Summary and Report 
Campylobacter spp.
Salmonella spp.
Staphylococcus aureus
July – September 2001 Soft Ice Cream
Executive Summary and Report
Aerobic Colony Count
The 4th survey was undertaken as part of the EU Coordinated Programme
October – December 2001 Smoked Salmon  Aerobic Colony Count
Staphylococcus aureus 
Escherichia coli 
Listeria monocytogenes




The FSAI would like to acknowledge the Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) from the various health boards for their work in sample collection and completion of questionnaires and the Official Food Microbiology Laboratories (OFMLs) for analysis of the samples.