Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Questions (978)

Dara Calleary

Question:

978. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to introduce antigen testing for employees of key manufacturing plants such as food and meat processing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6364/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Health Services Executive (HSE) currently organises SARS-CoV-2 PCR testing of the workforce in the larger food and meat processing plants (those which have 50 workers or more on site) on a four-weekly schedule.

My Department has been assisting HSE in evaluating the use of rapid antigen detections tests (RADT) for SARS-CoV-2 as a risk management tool in food businesses. This validation study has been done in tandem with the serial PCR testing organised by HSE - 4,900 people were tested by both RADT and PCR across 18 sites since the beginning of January 2021. While a detailed analysis of this data is currently being completed by HSE, the study would appear to support the use of RADT for this purpose.

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. 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.