Department to roll out rapid antigen testing in factories that want them

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is working to roll out rapid antigen Covid-19 testing in food processors that wish to avail of this type of testing, Minister Charlie McConalogue has said.

Speaking in answer to a parliamentary question from former minister Dara Calleary, Minister McConalogue noted that the department had been assisting the Health Service Executive (HSE) in evaluating the use of rapid antigen detection testing (RADT) for Covid-19 as a risk management tool in food businesses.

Rapid antigen testing is generally recognised as a quicker and easier (though somewhat less accurate) means of detecting Covid, compared to the PCR test that is normally used. The speed of the test (perhaps around 15 minutes for some types of RADT) means potential positives can be detected quicker and then sent for the more comprehensive PCR test.

The study by the department and the HSE had been done in tandem with serial PCR testing carried out by the HSE at food processors.

“While a detailed analysis of this data is currently being completed by the HSE, the study would appear to support the use of RADT for this purpose,” the minister noted.

“Consequently, my Department is currently making arrangements to facilitate the roll-out of this testing so that any food business operators (FBOs) who wish to use RADT for risk management purposes can do so as soon as possible,” the minister said.

“This includes: guidelines on the use of RADT for this purpose, which my department has agreed with the public health authorities and with the food industry; a process for the supply of RADT test-kits to FBOs; and a means of providing some initial on-site training for FBOs who wish to use RADT,” he concluded.