What is a Freedom of Information request?
The Freedom of Information Act 2014 gives you the right to access information held by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI). Such requests may be for personal or non-personal (i.e., corporate) information.
Requesting personal information
The FSAI is a Freedom of Information (FOI) body. As an FOI body, the FSAI welcomes requests for personal information. You may, for example, request the following items:
- any records held by the FSAI relating to you personally, irrespective of when they were created
- all other records created from the commencement of the Freedom of Information Act in Ireland (21 April 1998)
- any additional information which may be required to assist in the understanding of a current record
You have the right to have your personal records amended or deleted where the information is found to be incorrect or misleading. You also have the right to seek reasons for decisions that affect or have affected you.
Requesting non-personal information
As an FOI body, the FSAI welcomes requests for non-personal records. In general, these requests focus on corporate information. Where non-personal requests are made, the timeframe for acknowledgment and delivery is the same as requests for personal records.
How to make an FOI request
Your request must be in writing. In making your request, you are asked to:
- state that you are making a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2014
- provide as much information as possible about the records you seek to access
- specify how you would like to receive these records (that is, whether you would like to receive them by post or by email)
Sending in your FOI request
Your request may be sent by post or by email. Here are the addresses you may use:
Freedom of Information Officer, Governance and Information Unit, Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), The Exchange, George’s Dock, D01 P2V6, Dublin 1
Alternatively, you may complete and send the Freedom of Information form.
Allowing somebody to access your records (personal information only)
When making an FOI request, you may request that your records be sent to a third party who you appoint (for example, a solicitor, health professional, family member, etc.). The FSAI will only give your records to someone else when it has your consent to do so. Requests should be made as outlined above but the FSAI must also receive a letter signed by you, stating that you give your consent to the release of the records to the named individual. The FSAI may contact you about the request to release your records to a third party if further information and/or clarification is required.
Identification (personal records only)
To gain access to personal information, you are required to provide proof of identity. This is requested to ensure that information is released to the correct person and sent to the correct postal or email address. Items of identification required are:
- a copy of identification showing your full name and photograph (for example, your passport, driver’s license, etc.)
- proof of your address to which the materials will be sent (for example, the top of a utility bill showing both your name and your address). This must be less than six months old.
Do I need to provide identification for access to non-personal information?
No. As access is not sought into personal information, identification is not required.
How long does it take to receive a response?
A decision on your request will usually be made within four weeks. This is where a week is defined as five working days excluding weekends and public holidays.
Will I receive an acknowledgement of my request?
Receipt of your request will be acknowledged within two weeks where a week is defined as five working days excluding weekends and public holidays.
Do I have to pay to make an FOI request?
No. The €15 application fee has been abolished.
Are there any other charges?
Fees may be charged for the search, retrieval and copying of information you request. A charge will happen where the request is complex or requires considerable work to locate the information requested. The FOI Officer will let you know if there is a charge and you may then decide on that basis whether you would like to proceed with your request.
How much does it cost for search, retrieval and copying?
Fees may be charged for search, retrieval and copying the information you are asking for. With each request received, the FOI Officer follows two steps:
- locating the area where the information is kept
- identifying the exact information, reviewing and assembling it to be sent out
If the information you asked for is complex or significantly large, a fee will be charged. A fee is charged only if the information is to be sent to you. In cases where charges are likely to occur, the FSAI will ask the person making the request to pay a deposit of at least 20% of the estimated cost at the beginning of the process.
What are the current charges?
The current charges are €20 for each hour spent searching for, and retrieving, information. The charge for photocopying is €0.04 per sheet for the information to be sent to you. The following shows how these fees are calculated.
Hours: Less than 5
Estimate: €100 or less
Action: No fees may be charged for search, retrieval or copying
Hours: Between 5 and 24
Action: Search, retrieval and copying fees apply
Hours: Between 25 and 34
Action: No more than €500 may be charged for search, retrieval and copying
Hours: More than 35
Estimate: More than €700
Action: The FOI Officer will contact the requester to ask him/her/they to refine or amend the request. This is done to ensure that the search, retrieval and copying fees are less than €700. If the requester does not refine or amend the request, the FOI Officer may refuse it if it is believed that it will use a disproportionate amount of the organisation’s resources to provide the information.
Exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2014
The Freedom of Information Act 2014 sets out a series of exemptions to protect sensitive information where its disclosure may damage key interests of the State and/or third parties. This means that there are specific circumstances where the requested information will not be released (for example, to protect confidentiality, etc.). If any of these exemptions are applied to withhold information, the reasons will be clearly explained to you when you receive the decision made about your request.
What if I am unhappy with the decision I receive?
You may seek an Internal Review of the initial decision. This review will involve a complete reconsideration of the matter by a more senior member of staff at the FSAI to the person who made the initial decision. Reasons for seeking an Internal Review include where you are dissatisfied with the initial response (for example, refusal of information, form of access, charges, etc.) or you did not receive a reply within the specified four weeks of the initial application (this is known as a ‘deemed refusal’). Where this occurs, you are allowed to proceed to an Internal Review.
A request for an Internal Review must be submitted within four weeks from the date of the initial decision to your request (although late appeals may be permitted in certain circumstances). The FOI Appeals Officer must complete the review within three weeks (where a week is defined as five working days excluding weekends and public holidays). An Internal Review must normally be completed before an appeal may be made to the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC).
The decision of the Internal Reviewer will be communicated to you within three weeks of receipt of your request to appeal.
How may I send my request?
Your request may be sent by post or by email. Here are the addresses you may use:
FOI Appeals Officer, Governance and Information Unit, Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), The Exchange, George’s Dock, D01 P2V6, Dublin 1
Please mark it for the attention of the ‘FOI Appeals Officer’.
How much does it cost to ask for an Internal Review?
The fee for an Internal Review under Section 21 of the Freedom of Information Act 2014 is €30 (€10 for medical card holders and their dependents). No fee is charged for an Internal Review concerning access to personal records belonging to the requester.
What if I am unhappy with the outcome of the Internal Review?
Once the Internal Review process has been completed, you may appeal the decision to the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC). You must make this appeal within six months of receiving the decision of the FOI Appeals Officer at the FSAI. If you make an appeal to the OIC, it will fully investigate the matter and issue a fresh decision.
Where may I send my request to appeal the decision?
Your request may be sent by post or made online. The relevant information is as follows:
Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC), 6 Earlsfort Terrace, D02 W773, Dublin 2
Fees payable to the Office of the Information Commissioner
The fee for appeals to the OIC under Section 22 of the Freedom of Information Act 2014 is €50. It is €15 for medical card holders and their dependents.
Accessing personal information without making a Freedom of Information request
You may make a request for your personal information without using the Freedom of Information Act 2014. Instead, you may make a request under data protection legislation (for example, the General Data Protection Regulation, the Data Protection Act 2018, etc.). This is called a ‘Data Subject Access Request (DSAR).’ See information on making a DSAR.
Please note: This does not apply to requests for non-personal (i.e., corporate) information. Those requests must be made under the Freedom of Information Act 2014.
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