Cork County Council's Veterinary Department is responsible for carrying out functions in relation to food protection and disease control. It implements the terms and conditions of a Service Contract between the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and Cork County Council in relation to the slaughter of food animals, and imposes statutory controls on the production of meat, meat products and poultry. Its principal functions in relation to food safety relate to small slaughtering premises, slaughter house approvals and abattoir licensing; approval and supervision of small meat manufacturing premises; and supervision and inspection of dairy production holdings.
The Department places a huge emphasis on safety and quality, with around 30 of its 50 staff dedicated to maintaining and improving food safety and quality control measures. Over many years, it has driven standards up and has contributed to the international recognition of Cork as a centre of excellence for food production. The Department operates under contract to the FSAI in seven key areas:
- Meat hygiene (74 plants, including all the domestic abattoirs, meat manufacturing and meat processing plants)
- Milk and milk products (420 premises)
- Port inspection posts
- National Residue Monitoring Programme
Veterinary Food Safety Laboratory
The Veterinary Food Safety Laboratory (VFSL), incorporating a Cat 3 facility, has become an integral part of our veterinary public health unit, under the umbrella of the Environmental Directorate, Cork County Council. The VFSL has been developed to provide microbiological analysis of foodstuffs and other samples of relevance to food safety (water, animal tissues and environmental samples), thus providing a range of services which continually assess the security of the food chain for the protection of Public Health through both Statutory and Research surveillance. It is located at Cork County Council campus site at Inniscarra, Co Cork.
The Laboratory has been designated by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland as a National Official Control Laboratory providing services for other local authorities and other agencies.
The VFSL has a fully operational Quality Management System which ensures that the laboratory maintains a high standard of quality to meet the regulatory requirements of ISO/IEC 17025: 2005 and also its customers. Since 2010, the VFSL is an INAB accredited testing laboratory, Registration number 261T. The VFSL scope of accreditation is available on the INAB website, www.inab.ie
Passive and active surveillance procedures and process hygiene checks are carried out at approved and registered establishments (i.e. slaughter houses and meat processing premises), in accordance with the terms and conditions of the Service Contract between the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and Cork County Council, (CCC).
As part of this contract microbiological testing is carried out in accordance with Commission Regulation (EC) 2073/2005 (amended by Commission Regulation (EC) No. 1441/2007) from food business operators throughout the country.
Sample types tested in the laboratory include: Cooked meats, meat products, raw meat, poultry, milk, potable water and carcase/environmental swabs and as required in incident/outbreak investigations.
Samples are currently tested for the following:
- Food/Environmental: Aerobic Colony Counts, Salmonella spp., Listeria monocytogenes, E. coli, Campylobacter spp. and Verocytotoxigenic E. coli (VTEC).
- Potablewater: Coliform, E. coli, Enterococci spp., Salmonella and VTEC.
The laboratory has developed a particular specialisation for emerging pathogens which include Salmonella spp, Listeria monocytogenes, E. coli, Verocytotoxigenic E. coli and Campylobacter spp.
Along with the Category 2 laboratory at Inniscarra there is a full specification Category 3 facility which is used for testing high risk pathogens such as Verocytotoxigenic E. coli.
In the VFSL, the bacterial strains isolated are characterised phenotypically to determine antimicrobial resistance profiles and genotypically by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) or multiple-locus variable-number of tandem repeat analysis (MLVA). All results are entered into our Bionumerics Library to enable future comparative analysis of human, animal and environmental isolates.
This information is essential to establish vital epidemiological linkages to assist with human disease Outbreak Investigations.
The Laboratory services are being developed through a partnership approach involving collaborations with primary food producers, higher education authorities, national competent authorities and research institutions.
Partnerships include the following organisations:
- Central Veterinary Research Laboratory, DAFM Laboratories, Co. Kildare.
- National Salmonella Reference Laboratory, National University of Ireland, Galway.
- Food Safety Authority of Ireland, Dublin.
- Centres for Food Safety and Foodborne Zoonomics, University College Dublin
- Colindale Public Health Laboratory, London, UK.
- Safefood, All Island food safety agency, Co. Cork.
- Dept. of Biological Sciences, Cork Institute of Technology.
- Faculty of Food Science, Queens University Belfast.
- Environmental Research Institute, University College Cork.
- Dept. of Food Science and Technology, University College Cork.
- Dept. of Clinical Microbiology, University College Cork.
- School of Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin.
- Ashtown Food Research Centre, Teagasc, Dublin
- Moorepark Food Research Centre, Teagasc, Co. Cork
These collaborations facilitate technology transfer, rapid response, educational exchange and provides a support infrastructure for primary producers in County Cork and throughout the Republic of Ireland through a Partnership Approach.
Veterinary Food Safety Laboratory, Cork County Council, Inniscarra, Co. Cork.
Tel: +353 21 4532738/21