Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Meat Processing Plants
729. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to improve scrutiny and inspection at meat plants in view of the specific threat of Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11009/20]
All meat processing and slaughter plants whose meat is destined for human consumption must meet the requirements set out in detailed EU regulations relating to food safety, animal health and welfare. Large scale slaughter plants operate under the supervision of my Department, while smaller scale abattoirs are supervised by the Local Authority Veterinary Service.
In accordance with EU Regulation No. 625 of 2017, food processing plants and cold stores under the supervision of my Department are subject to a risk-based official control strategy which is determined by my Department, based on the activity of each individual Food Business.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Food Business Operators have put in place a range of protective practices and equipment to protect employee safety and these measures may vary slightly from plant to plant, but may include the reduction of throughput rates at the plant, temperature checks on entry into the plant, the extension of operating hours and other safeguards such as “podding”, the provision of additional PPE, the use of perspex screens and the provision of additional facilities to support physical distancing measures.
A national Outbreak Control team has been established by the HSE to deal with all issues relating to Covid-19 in meat plants and provide recommendations. My Department is represented on this committee. Any clusters of cases in individual meat plants, in common with clusters in other workplaces, are dealt with by local HSE-led outbreak control teams.
Department staff in export approved Meat Food Businessesare been supporting the work of the public health authorities and the Health & Safety Authority (HSA) in relation to Covid 19 measures in meat plants since the start of the pandemic and they will continue to be available to support their work in the context of ensuring that the Government’s “Return to Work Safely” protocol is operating effectively in all locations where the Department has regulatory oversight.