EU Commissioner launches Food Safety initiative for Irish workers – in Eleven Languages

November 1st, 2001 Categories: News, Press Releases Tags:

The difficult job of safeguarding Irish food is being eased by a national strategy to train 10,000 food workers each year in safe practices – using eleven languages. Through the National Hygiene Partnership, the body behind the strategy and national provider of hygiene training, food workers and managers are being trained to meet the stringent EU legislation on food safety. Courses and training materials can now be accessed through the Partnership’s new web-site which was launched today by the EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, Mr. David Byrne.

The human factor is one of the tourism and food industry’s greatest safety risks and features consistently in the top three causes of food safety breaches. In the main, outbreaks of food poisoning occur as a result of bad practices adopted by untrained food handlers and the Partnership is working to build a safe industry on training and changes in food handling practices. Its task is made more difficult by the nature of the industry workforce. Transiency is a concern with 25% staff turnover in the Hotel and Restaurant sector and, with the increasing influx of non-nationals, language is also presenting a serious barrier to food safety training. Apart from the growing number of non-English speakers from EU countries, some 7,000 work permits are now being issued each year for the tourism and hospitality sectors to non-EU workers, predominantly from Eastern Europe and Asia.

Recognising the diversity of the workforce, the Partnership now offers hygiene training for food workers in eleven languages, from Portuguese to Chinese and Russian. Its new website has been critical to this, as material can be downloaded directly from the site including its popular “Hygiene Matters” handbooks. The website also outlines the Partnership’s formal hygiene courses, which are offered by 160 licensed trainers on a countrywide basis.

At the launch of the new training initiative and website, the EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, Mr David Byrne said “This is an excellent initiative and I congratulate the National Hygiene Partnership on this very practical idea in furthering the cause of high standards of hygiene in catering establishments. While we may have a host of hygiene legislation, its practical implementation on the ground is the key to its success. Something as simple as a food operator washing his or her hands can actually prevent the spread of food borne infections and even save lives.”

“The tourism and food industry has come a long way in recognising food safety as a serious issue,” guests at the launch were told by John D. Carroll, Chairman of the National Hygiene Partnership, which represents the five key bodies concerned with food hygiene. “The industry depends on a green, clean image and cannot afford to tarnish its reputation, least of all through food safety scares. But there is no room for complacency. It is still undergoing a sizeable change of mindset and is adapting to new hygiene practices – it has by no means arrived yet.”

“The risks involved in a food industry can never be fully eliminated, especially given the human factor, ” John D. Carroll continued. “But they can be managed very effectively and that is what the Partnership helps businesses to do. We set out a safe path to walk.”

The National Hygiene Partnership’s programmes are supported by the Department of Health and Children and by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. It is a consortium comprising CERT, the Environmental Health Officers Association, the NSAI, IHCI and Excellence Ireland. The new website can be visited at www.nhp.ie

Dr Patrick Wall, Chief Executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland said at the launch, “With increasing publicity on the need for high standards of food hygiene, no sector of the food industry can claim that they are unaware of the need to comply with the law. When an outbreak of food poisoning occurs, there can be many explanations from the proprietor of the involved food business but there can be no excuse. Food safety is not rocket science and food poisoning is a preventable illness. Staff are a food businesses’ greatest asset but untrained staff can be the greatest liability. The National Hygiene Partnership is making it easier for food businesses to ensure that their staff are trained and the opportunity should be availed of. It can take years, and a lot of resources, to build up a brand name and a reputation, both can be seriously damaged overnight by a food scare. Therefore businesses should protect themselves and their customers by ensuring their staff are appropriately trained.”

The National Hygiene Partnership is the trading name for a Partnership of Government Agencies and Industry Representatives Bodies which was established for the purpose of developing , promoting and coordinating a range of food safety training initiatives for the Irish Food Sectors. The NHP is registered for VAT in Ireland, Registration number 9535893H and the business address is Abbey Court, Block B. Lower Abbey Street, Dublin 1.