Ireland dairy sector controls are ‘well organised’ - FVO
FVO said documented procedures (SOPs) are in place and implemented by local inspectors, official controls are done frequently according to control plans and are risk based and well documented.
Reports on official controls contain the relevant information including deficiencies and shortcomings and follow-up is documented and done regularly, it added.
Milk purchasers are often independent legal entities which buy from farmers and sell to processing establishments.
They are responsible for collection of raw milk at milk production holdings and transport it directly to processing establishments.
A previous audit concerning the safety of food of animal origin in Ireland with the scope including milk and milk products was in October 2011.
Frequency of controls and sampling
The frequency of the official controls in liquid milk plants is based on risk assessment with the minimum being one audit per year and the maximum is two audits plus four unannounced inspections per year.
Frequency of official sampling is also risk based. It is between one and four times per year.
The FVO audit team visited an official regional microbiological laboratory which tested 2,450 samples in 2014. Only one potential food safety risk was detected (Listeria in pasteurised milk).
Processing at the site was suspended until the food business operator (FBO) could provide guarantees the potential food safety risk was eliminated.
It had to take appropriate action, carry out final product and environmental contamination testing and verification control on pasteurisation (phosphatase test).
The competent authority evaluated the corrective actions and when all test results were acceptable, it lifted the suspension.
The laboratory carried out the test and confirmation test on time and informed the relevant inspector on time.
Another positive Listeria case in soft goat cheese made from raw milk occurred in March. The laboratory informed the relevant inspector on time and the inspector followed official procedure.
Ireland is authorised to use an alternative method, described in Commission Decision 96/360/EC, for calculating the somatic cell count (SCC) in cows` milk.
However, it has been requested to submit a report on implementation and at the time of the audit, had not done so.
HACCP and hygiene
The FVO audit team noted in one establishment, dirty, bad quality, painted wooden pallets were used in the production area where exposed products were packed.
In two establishments, the maintenance and cleaning were not adequate (dirty and rusty equipment) and in two establishments, inappropriate use of a hose could cause cross- contamination (splashing of cleaning water).
“In a large capacity establishment, based on the FBO explanation, there is always a positive pressure on the processed milk side on each section of the heat exchanger. But there were no records available on the pressure differences,” said FVO.
“The calibration document of the pasteurization equipment did not mention explicitly the pressure difference between the raw milk and the pasteurised milk part even though it was important for the verification of the CCP (pasteurisation).”
However, it said despite the minor shortcomings and effective system for control of hygiene conditions and HACCP were in place.
FVO said in several establishments the raw milk temperature at the milk production holdings at time of collection was often higher than 6 ̊C, sometimes it was over 10 ̊C.
However, the temperature of raw milk recorded on delivery to processing establishments was always under 10 ̊C, (in line with legal requirements), so the cold chain was maintained during transport.