All of the inspections in meat processing plants by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) last month were carried out unannounced.

A spokesperson for the HSA told AgriLand that so far, there have been 23 meat processing plant inspections recorded for September, all of which were unannounced, meaning plants were not given prior notice to HSA officials attending sites to carry out inspections.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue said last month that he would seek these inspections in meat plants be carried out predominantly unannounced.

In August, there were 26 inspections carried out in meat plants, with 25 of these carried out unannounced.

The controversy over inspections being carried out in meat plants unannounced has been ongoing throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, due to the number of outbreaks in these settings previously.

During the summer, AgriLand discovered that every announced Covid-19 inspection carried out by the HSA before August took place in meat processing plants.

99% of all Covid-19 inspections/investigations carried out in workplaces were unannounced since the commencement of the easing of restrictions across the country.

Only 23% of inspections/investigations carried out in meat plants were unannounced.

As reported on August 13, the HSA said that, of the 39 Covid-19 compliance inspections carried out in meat plants in the Republic of Ireland, only nine were unannounced.

Responding to queries by AgriLand, the HSA revealed that the “vast majority”, greater than 99%, of HSA inspections were carried out unannounced in workplaces.

At that stage, the HSA had conducted 3,840 inspections, of which 2,844 addressed Covid-19 measures. The 1%, or 30 workplaces that were announced prior to inspection, were all in meat plants.

Possible move to ‘Level 5’

Meanwhile, in other Covid-19 news, it has been reported that the cabinet will meet today (October 5) to discuss recommendations made by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) that the whole country be moved to ‘Level 5’ restrictions outlined in the government’s ‘Living with Covid-19’ plan.

There are no particular recommendations relating to the agriculture sector for Level 5. Farming and agri-food production would remain ‘essential work’ and will likely be allowed continue as they had at the height of ‘lockdown’ when Covid-19 first struck the country.

At that time, livestock marts were either closed or operating very limited services. Since then, many marts have changed the way they operate to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, even after normal services resumed somewhat in June.