Dozens of unregistered food businesses were operating illegally during 2020 following a boom in home delivery kits due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) carried out investigations into 47 businesses last year, compared to 19 in 2019.
These businesses were operating in domestic kitchens and private dwellings with inadequate food safety processes, procedures and facilities in place.
They were producing, processing and distributing foods such as baked goods, ready-to-eat sushi products and raw and cooked meats.
The majority were using social media to advertise the sale and supply of their products and were receiving orders via Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.
The investigations also resulted in 17 tonnes of unfit or unsafe food being taken off the market in Ireland.
Dr Pamela Byrne, chief executive of the FSAI, urges consumers to be vigilant and only purchase food from reputable food businesses.
“Consumers have a right to safe food and bogus operators seeking to make a quick profit at the risk of potentially making consumers sick or selling non-compliant or fraudulent foodstuffs will be pursued using the legal powers available to us,” she said.
“The vast majority of food businesses comply with their legal requirement to notify prior to operating; however, it is very concerning to see an increase in the number of unregistered food businesses found to be operating in 2020.
“There is no doubt that COVID-19 has presented many challenges for the food industry and for people working in the sector, however, this does not change the legal requirements which are in place to protect consumer health.”
Food law requires all food businesses to be notified to the relevant competent authority irrespective of the size or type of food business, prior to operating.
This requirement ensures that food businesses will be registered and approved with the appropriate inspection agency to ensure food safety and protect consumer health. The food business owner is legally responsible for ensuring that the food they produce is safe to eat.
In 2020, five closure orders, five compliance notices and three prohibition orders were served on unregistered or unapproved food businesses.
Two warrants were also obtained to gain access to unregistered food businesses running their business from a domestic dwelling.