‘Inspections of meat plants should be carried out unannounced’

Inspections of meat plants should be carried out unannounced, according to Sinn Féin spokesperson on agriculture and food Brian Stanley.

The Laois-Offaly TD was speaking following an exchange in the Dáil on Thursday, May 21.

Commenting, deputy Stanley said:

“In the Dáil last week, I asked how many inspections of meat plants had been carried out by the HSA [Health and Safety Authority] during Covid-19 and neither the Minister for Business [Heather Humphreys] nor the Minister for Agriculture [Michael Creed] could tell me.”

Noting that Minister Humphreys said she didn’t need to know how many inspections had taken place and that it was a “confidential matter”, he said:

This is despite the fact that we’re seeing clusters of Covid-19 infections breaking out across the state in meat plants, including Laois and Offaly.

“Sinn Féin wants to protect workers, communities and the industry itself and the best way to do that is to ensure that meat plants adhere to the infection control guidelines set out by the HSE [Health Service Executive].

“There have been over 200 complaints made to the HSA regarding meat plants not sticking to the guidelines and it is bizarre that two ministers in the Dáil would tell me that they didn’t need to know how many inspections had been carried out.

“I would like to welcome the fact that the HSE-led outbreak control teams have been established which will be involved in the inspection of meat plants. However, it is important that these inspections are unannounced.

Management should not be given the heads-up before inspections during which time they can direct staff to take lunch breaks…to ensure social distancing just for that time period.

“It is also important that all meat plants are inspected where clusters have been identified and that no workers returns to work with Covid-19 symptoms until they have the all-clear.

“Some meat plants are doing very well right now which illustrates that it is possible to continue production and also maintain social distancing. But we need all plants to do this,” deputy Stanley concluded.