Belfast City Council this week is highlighting the invaluable work undertaken by its staff in order to ensure that the food we eat is fit and safe for consumption.
With the start of Food Safety Week today (Monday 4 June), which this year has the theme #ProtectingYourPlate, the Council is showing how its front line service interacts with consumers, producers and local businesses to keep potential hazards off our tables.
Belfast City Council employs 22 people in food safety work. During the past year, these staff carried out more than 5,500 visits to premises in the Belfast area, took almost 1,500 food samples and responded to around 1,000 requests for service.
Most of the work undertaken by Council staff is pro-active, as they seek to protect the reputation and maintain the standards of our local food and drinks industry.
A vital area of this work is supporting the many new food and drinks businesses that have been opening in Belfast in recent years, and continue to do so on a regular basis. Staff offer help to anyone thinking of opening a new business, and assist those who have just done so, through ongoing advice and specialised workshops. Over the last year, more than 200 new businesses were helped in this way.
Hundreds of Complaints Dealt With
The food safety team also received almost 630 complaints about food or food premises over the past year. Ninety-seven per cent of these were responded to within 48 hours, and 84 per cent of the complaints were investigated and resolved within eight weeks.
As well as ensuring that businesses produce safe food, the Council also investigates cases of food poisoning, to identify the source and prevent those who are ill from infecting others. Staff investigated 100 confirmed cases of food related infectious diseases last year. All of these were dealt with within 24 hours. Officials also dealt with 178 alleged food poisoning complaints.
The Council carries out a number of initiatives to support ethnic communities and businesses, working with the large number of ethnic caterers in the city, making information available relevant language and employing the services of interpreters where necessary.
However, the Council’s work is not confined to the city itself, but also covers the 6,000 ships which berthed at the Port of Belfast each year. About 60 per cent of Northern Ireland’s seaborne trade is handled at the port, and Belfast remains Ireland’s busiest ferry port, with more than 1.5 million passengers and crew and more than half a million freight units passing through it. The Council supports this industry through the delivery of Port Health services from purpose built office and inspection facilities located within the harbour estate.
Port Health Facilities
The Port Health facilities are approved by the EU for the importation and clearance of a range of high risk foodstuffs. Last year, Port Health officials examined 315 consignments and carried out 482 documentary checks of imported foods. Foods from non-EU countries, including nuts and nut products, confectionary, curry products, fruit, rice and wine were inspected and examined for contaminants such as aflatoxins, excessive or non-permitted additives and pesticides. The unit also validates imports of organic foods from Third World countries, involving documentary and identity checks. Last year, 33 organic consignments were validated.
The Port Health service also issues ship sanitation certificates to all types of ships, including the growing number of cruise ships that visit the city each year. In 2018, there are 117 cruise ship visits planned and Council will carry out ship sanitation inspections on these ships when they dock, if required. These inspections include an inspection of the food preparation areas, sampling water in the swimming pools, testing for bacteria in elevators and on door handles, and also engaging with the cruise ship’s medical centre to ensure any illnesses on the ship are contained within the ship.
Last year, 488 ships arriving at the port were inspected to ensure compliance with international and UK health and hygiene requirements, including food safety and control of infectious diseases. More than ship sanitation inspections were carried out and certificates issued to the vessels.
Food production, transport and sale at retail and catering establishments plays an essential part in our local economy. Food and drink accounts for £672 million of the GVA for Northern Ireland, with the food sector as a major employer, having almost 45,000 employees in Northern Ireland. Good quality, local and safe food has a key role to play in developing local tourism. Belfast City Council’s staff are the people who are protecting your plates by ensuring that the food we eat is safe.
Slemish Market Supper Club Hosts Exclusive Summer Fine Dining Experience
The popular Slemish Market Supper Club is set to offer food fans a new experience next month as their exclusive dining experience returns for another six-course event featuring well known chef Rob Curley.
Based in the beautiful surroundings of the greater Ballymena area, the unique pop up dining experience, Slemish Market Supper Club, creates an array of bespoke meals using only the finest local produce.
Hosted by the award-winning chef, Rob Curley, Slemish Market Supper Club runs across a number of venues across the greater Ballymena area in County Antrim.
At each fine dining experience, Rob will be on hand to allow you to learn more about each dish by explaining the ingredients, where they are sourced and the inspiration behind the creation of the distinctive cuisines.
“I love surprising people by taking a humble ingredient and turning it into something extraordinary,” said Rob.
The delectable dishes consist of six courses that will include a drink, a wee bite, a starter, a fish course, a meat course and a dessert.
“We want our diners to have more than a meal,” explained Rob, adding: “We want them to understand what is on their doorstep, what they too can prepare and have a great time as well as great food.”
Each event differs from the rest, as the ingredients used are done so when the produce is at its finest, making each experience special. Not just that, the menu is a surprise which Rob reveals on the night.
Offering the best summer creations, the next pop up event is due to take place on Saturday August 7 at Incredible Edibles Community Gardens in Cloughmills, Co. Antrim. The unique event not only offers the finest of cuisines but creates an intimate setting allowing you to meet new people and learn top tips from an award-winning chef.
“It Is a delight for me to showcase what we have on our doorstep,” said Rob. “And when our diners experience the freshness it can be a revelation.”
Northern Ireland is renowned for its quality food and hospitality, and with Slemish Market Supper Club, they combine these two elements to create innovative and unforgettable experiences.
Tickets for the Slemish Market Supper Club at Incredible Edibles Community Gardens are £60 and can be booked at slemishmarketsupperclub.com
Lidl Northern Ireland brings the X-factor with opening of new Buncrana Road store
Lidl Northern Ireland is bringing the x-factor to Derry~Londonderry with the opening of its brand new, £8 million state-of-the-art concept store at Buncrana Road on Thursday 29 July which will be officially unveiled by X-Factor sensation and local celebrity, Eoghan Quigg.
Located at the junction of Buncrana Road and Springtown Road, the newly expanded store replaces the retailer’s former site at 24 Buncrana Road and is the first of three new stores planned for the North West region as part of a wider £26 million investment into the region, announced earlier this year. An additional 10 local jobs have been created as part of the investment.
Dungiven local and radio broadcaster Eoghan Quigg will officially cut the ribbon to unveil the new look Lidl Northern Ireland store and participate in a meet-and-greet with shoppers from 8am – 9am.
Regional Director for Lidl Northern Ireland, Conor Boyle, said:
“As Northern Ireland’s fastest-growing supermarket, we’re delighted to continue moving confidently forward with our long-established investment plans for the North West, bringing new employment opportunities to the local community and offering customers an enhanced shopping experience at this new location.
We’re delighted to confirm the new Buncrana Road store opening date for Thursday 29 July. We’re looking forward to welcoming shoppers through our doors and bringing our fresh, high-quality products and market-leading value to more shoppers in the North West region.”
Occupying a 10,000 sq. metre site with a 2,217 sq metre store space, shoppers can enjoy an enhanced shopping experience featuring higher ceilings, a more spacious interior layout and enlarged bakery areas. The store will also include improved facilities for store staff such as a larger canteen and welfare area and shower facilities.
Built with sustainability as a priority, the new store will incorporate a range of environmentally friendly features including an ISO 50001 certified Energy Management System and 4 electric vehicle charger spaces within its 146-space car park, enabling customers to charge their electric vehicles for free whilst they shop.
Speaking ahead of the new Lidl Buncrana Road store launch, Eoghan said:
“I am thrilled to be officially opening the brand-new Lidl Northern Ireland store at Buncrana Road. I’m looking forward to meeting shoppers and hope to see as many people there as possible to have a bit of craic on the morning. There are always great opening day deals to be had as well, so it’s shaping up to be a great event.
Now that I am shopping for a family of my own, Lidl is my supermarket of choice, with its fantastic selection of quality products at great value. The new and improved store is a great addition to the local area and I can’t wait to get in myself for the weekly shop!”