The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is in talks with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) to ensure that the Government’s ‘Return to Work Safely’ protocol is properly implemented.

The department maintains a presence at meat plants through veterinary inspectors, who normally monitor issues relating to food safety.

The current talks would see department staff (presumably including these inspectors) support the work of the HSA in meat plants. The HSA’s role in this relates to occupational health and safety, which, in terms of Covid-19, means ensuring the ‘Return to Work Safely’ protocols are adhered to.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has a permanent presence in all export-approved meat food businesses. Its primary responsibility is to carry out official controls on food safety and authenticity and to verify compliance with the relevant EU regulations.

“The department has been supporting the work of the public health authorities and the HSA in relation to Covid-19 measures in meat plants since the start of the pandemic,” a department statement said.

“The department is currently in discussions with the HSA in relation to how best to continue to support its work, particularly 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,” the statement added.

Staff retested

In other meat plant related news, it was revealed yesterday that, following the mass testing of meat plant staff at a number of facilities for Covid-19, 13 individuals had to be retested due to issues that arose in processing their test samples.

This was revealed by Joan Gallagher, a programme manager for the Health Service Executive (HSE), in a communication to independent Roscommon-Galway TD Denis Naughten.

A parliamentary question from Naughten to Minister for Health Simon Harris was referred to Gallagher, who confirmed that 11 of the individuals were retested due to having been ‘not tested’, while two were retested as their results were ‘invalid’.

In this context, ‘not tested’ refers to a problem occurring with the swab on the way to a laboratory and it therefore could not be processed. This includes labelling errors. ‘Invalid’ means that the sample arrived at the laboratory and was tested, but there was no reaction to it.