Address by Mr Pat The Cope Gallagher Minister of State at the Dept of Health & Children Launch of Primary Course in Food Safety 6 September 2007

I am delighted to be here this afternoon to formally launch the Environmental Health Officers’ Association’s Revised Primary Course in Food Safety. The Association is to be congratulated on this initiative to review the existing course, so as to ensure that it is up to date with the ever-changing world of food safety legislation.

It is clear that in recent years there have been significant changes for those involved in food control in Ireland. Most of these changes emanate from Brussels where Ireland is an active participant in the decision making process. The European Union has been, and will continue to be, the main driver of change in the area of food safety.

Environmental Health Officers throughout the country have proven their ability to change as the need arises. This adaptability has allowed Ireland to develop a dynamic and forward-looking food control service and, for this reason, I am confident of our ability to face any future challenges.

Food safety is of course an issue which remains at the forefront of the public mind. Consumers want and need to be confident in regard to the safety of their food.

While the primary responsibility for food safety rests with food business operators, I think it is important that we all work together to create public confidence in the food industry. A food supply that is adequate in quantity, quality, accessibility and safety is undoubtedly key to achieving and maintaining the health of the Ireland’s population.

With the introduction of new food hygiene legislation the need for training and education of food workers in good hygiene practices is a requirement. This Primary Course in Food Safety will address this training need. The course will help food workers to see and understand where problems can arise in the preparation, handling, storage or serving of food. These problems, if not controlled, have the potential to create a risk to the health of the consumer and damage the reputation of the food business concerned. Outbreaks can be very difficult to control because infected food from a single source can cause illness in many people over a wide geographical area.

The incidence of food-borne disease due to microbiological hazards is the result of many factors, all associated with our fast-changing world. Chemicals are also a significant source of food-borne illness, although their effects are often difficult to link with a particular food. Emerging food-borne diseases will continue to challenge food control and businesses and I note that the course covers a broad and highly relevant range of subjects. Food workers who successfully complete the course will therefore receive a very good grounding in the basic principles of food hygiene.

As Minister of State with responsibility for food safety, I wish to express my gratitude to the Association for their tireless work to build awareness of the importance of good food hygiene practices and applaud them on their achievement today with the launch of the Primary Course in Food Safety.