THERE were 149 unannounced meat-plant inspections by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) between September and the end of January.
According to information supplied to Cork South West Social Democrats TD, Holly Cairns, by the Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar, one announced inspection also took place in the same timeframe, from September 10 to January 22.
The Tánaiste, who is also the enterprise, trade, and employment minister, said: “Between September 10, 2020, and January 22, 2021, the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has completed 150 inspections of meat-processing plants, of which 149 inspections were unannounced. In addition, as of January 22, 2021, inspectors from the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine have completed 645 Covid-19 inspections on behalf of the HSA, including unannounced inspections; these inspections are ongoing.
“HSA inspections are predominantly made without prior notification. However, in some exceptional circumstances, prior notification may be appropriate. For example, in support of public-health management of an outbreak, advanced notification may be required for operational reasons.
“The HSA is a member of the National Outbreak Control Team dealing with the Covid-19 outbreaks at meat-process facilities. Local outbreak-control teams have been working with the employers and employees of affected facilities to control and reduce the spread of infection.”
Based on the inspections, a high level of compliance with the recommended measures to limit the spread of Covid-19 was found by inspectors.
Meanwhile, in response to questions from Ms Cairns, Charlie McConalogue, the agriculture minister, said: “My department continues to contribute to the HSE-chaired National Outbreak Control Team, as part of the whole-of-government response to the pandemic, and is supporting the HSE in the context of local outbreak teams, overseeing a programme of serial testing of workers at larger food plants and other businesses.
“As of week ending January 22, 2021, over 97,494 swabs have been taken, with 804 detected cases, since this process commenced last autumn. The department continues to provide any assistance requested by the HSE to facilitate this testing programme. In addition, staff from my department, in collaboration with HSE, are researching the potential use of rapid antigen testing in the food-processing sector, as an additional risk-mitigation measure.”