A record 109 food premises were warned to clean up their act by environmental chiefs last year.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) revealed the number of enforcement orders served for breaches in legislation rose by 30%, up from 84 in 2011.
They included 91 eateries which were closed for short periods of time, three that were ordered to improve standards, and 15 prohibition orders which stopped the sale of specific products.
FSAI chief executive Professor Alan Reilly said it was unacceptable that some food businesses were continuing to breach food safety laws.
He warned all owners to place robust food safety management systems and hygiene practices on top of their agenda or face the full rigour of the law.
"Compared to 2011, we saw a substantial increase in the number of enforcement orders served last year, making 2012 the highest year for enforcements to date," he said.
"This increase is extremely disappointing and serves as an unfortunate reminder that there continues to be food business operators who put consumers' health at risk by not complying with their legal obligations for food safety and hygiene."
The figures included eight premises served with orders for breaches in food safety legislation last month. Five were in Dublin, with one each in counties Wicklow, Clare and Tipperary.
Seven closure orders were handed out where it was deemed there was, or was likely to be, a grave and immediate danger to public health at or in the premises, or where an improvement order was not complied with.
One premises had several products removed after a prohibition order was issued.