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Sushi Production and Outlets Cause for Concern - Audit Published

Thursday, 26 September 2019

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) today released the findings of a targeted audit that shows an unacceptable level of non-compliance by sushi production and processing facilities in Ireland. The audit of sushi manufacturers, restaurants and takeaway outlets revealed 76 breaches of food safety regulations, with some 90% of the businesses audited not having adequate controls in place to safeguard human health. All food businesses are legally obliged to have robust food safety control systems in place, however of the 11 premises audited, only one premises had no breaches of food safety and hygiene legislation. The audit was undertaken due to a reported 80% increase in the number of restaurants offering sushi since 2018. To coincide with the audit being published today, the FSAI has produced new advice on the safe production of sushi to assist sushi producers to comply with the law and the advice is available on: https://www.fsai.ie/faq/safe_production_sushi.html

Three major manufacturers were audited who supply and also produce sushi for the corporate sector. The eight restaurants audited ranged from small establishments where sushi was served to consumers on the premises, through to small outlets where sushi was delivered to people in their homes.

According to Dr Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive, FSAI, raw fish from both fresh water and salt water can be a potential source of human infection due to the presence of parasites. Therefore, controls to ensure the raw fish used in sushi is parasite free are critical, as there is no cooking process in sushi to kill off potentially harmful parasites. In tandem, sushi rice needs specific food safety controls to avoid the presence of specific foodborne bacteria commonly found in rice.

    “There has been rapid growth in demand for sushi, which can be perceived as a healthy food option by consumers. Our audit sought to establish if food safety controls were being followed and the findings are very concerning. The audit focussed on the food safety controls in place regarding the freezing of fish for parasite control and time/temperature controls, and pH controls for acidified sushi rice. It showed that over three quarters of the food businesses did not have adequate food safety controls in place for this. We also found poor traceability records, which are critical in the event of a food recall, if required. The poor standards overall are worrying and suggests a lack of awareness by the sector as a whole of the serious food safety risks that sushi can pose if there are inadequate food safety controls in place.”

The FSAI audit found:

  • 76 breaches of food law which required corrective action
  • 90% of food businesses audited did not have adequate controls in place relating to sushi production and processing activities
  • 75% of food businesses did not meet the requirements of the legislation for freezing fish for parasite control
  • Over 90% of the food businesses did not have adequate operational controls for sushi rice production

    “We found frozen fish being defrosted at room temperature. Defrosting should only be undertaken in refrigerators to avoid bacteria multiplying at room temperatures. We found freezers not at the required minus 20 degrees Celsius for fish parasite control, as well as fish being delivered without temperature checks. Whilst the premises in our audit have all rectified the issues and we have now provided specific advice to assist the wider sector improve standards, we will continue to apply enforcement measures for non-compliance on those who do meet the legal standards which are set in the interest of protecting their customer’s health,” Dr Byrne stressed.

Targetted audit on sushi production and processing facilities