Hygiene Education and the Food Processing Industry

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While the risk to the public health is sufficient reason to promote hygiene education reasons more tangible to the hard headed businessman and highly persuasive in times of recession are highlighted in “A Strategy for Agricultural Processing Industry in Ireland” which has been launched by the Industrial Development Authority. The report comprising one hundred pages identifies specific new product areas in eleven of the industry’s subsectors which the IDA considered offered most potential for development. These included vac-packed boneless beef, consumer cuts, beef burgers, baby food, processed cheese, whey products, canned and curried products, chicken and turkey portions, breakfast cereals, processed fruit and vegetables, speciality confectionery and other products with export potential or a strong element of import substitution.

Ireland’s food processing industry, which employs 47,300 people and exported £1,200m worth of products in 1980, could increase the added value of the sector’s products by 80% over its present level of £670m, making employment in the sector more secure while enhancing its potential for new job creation according to the report. The net impact of the food processing sector on our balance of payments is positive and was approximately £470m in 1980.

The report points out that entry to export markets will be effectively closed to plants which do not conform to international hygiene and veterinary standards. These standards will eventually be applied to domestic sales making the need to adapt even more urgent. The dynamics of spread of food borne disease is now well understood. The principles of food hygiene determine an appropriate standard of structural and operational hygiene to minimise risk. Food handlers should be aware of these principles lest they thwart effort towards quality food production.

The McCaughey Report recommended that “High priority should be given to ensuring that all entrants to the food industry are given a course in basic hygiene training (7.6v). The extent of the training desirable is outlined in appendix G of the Advisory Committee’s report. Section 71 of The Health Act 1970 places a duty on the health boards to promote health education including hygiene education, and consider­ able progress has been made by the Health Inspectorate in this area in recent years. Over 2000 individuals have received the National Certificate in the Principles and Practices of Food Hygiene.

This Association is fully committed to promoting hygiene education for all our citizens. We must however stress that health inspection staff numbers are inadequate to make the significant impact we would wish in this area and we recommend that the Department of Health take steps to ensure that sufficient vacancies are made available to qualified health inspection personnel. The Irish Quality Control Association has made great strides in the promotion of hygiene in the Food Industry and is to be congratulated on its efforts in this regard. The contribution to the National Hygiene Awards of four of our Association members, Con Healy, Dick Lahert, Michael Nugent and Malachy Donnelly has been acknowledged and the IQCA has also called for the education of food handlers in the food processing industry in the principles and practices of food hygiene. We fully support that call and recognise hygiene education as an area of endeavour which requires the expertise
of our members and as a necessary effort in the National Interest.