Tuesday, 3 February 2004

Questions (329)

Mary Upton

Question:

458 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his policy in respect of provision of local, nutritious food in the canteens and restaurants in the Department; the percentage of the purchased provisions which are produced locally; the percentage which is imported; the percentage of the food on sale which is fast food; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3072/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

Canteen and restaurant facilities are not provided for staff in my Department with the exception of the prisons area and the Garda Síochána area.

On the matter of staff restaurants-canteens in the prisons area of my Department, the majority of catering services are provided by an Irish based catering company, which was awarded the contract in 2001 following a tender competition.

As part of the contract, the caterer is responsible for the day-to-day management of all catering services, including the ordering and purchasing of all food and the requirement to provide a menu cycle that will give variety on a planned basis, together with continuous attention to good food presentation, in terms of quality, nutrition and innovation. There is no breakdown available on the percentage of food produced locally, imported food or fast food.

There are more than 3,000 persons in custody in prisons in this jurisdiction on a daily basis. Their catering and dietary needs are met through the prisons catering function. The Irish Prison Service, with the support and advice of CERT, now Fáilte Ireland, has been engaged in an active programme of development and quality assurance for prisons catering in recent years. This programme is now yielding significant benefits. It has been conducted in close conjunction with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

All foodstuffs are purchased by tender. The catering service at each prison is audited annually having regard to preparation, presentation, hygiene, quality, value, nutritional value and service. A new 28 day menu cycle, including a 28 day vegetarian cycle, has been agreed for all prisons and is due to be introduced in the spring 2004.

Furthermore, a key aspect of the development programme for prisons catering is the establishment of an independent external audit so as to provide comprehensive reports of the quality standards being achieved and to highlight areas in need of greater attention. In the time allowed, it has not been possible to receive information from the Garda Síochána. I have, however, made inquiries about this matter with the Garda Síochána and will communicate with the Deputy directly regarding this information.