Written Answers. - Processed Food Quality.


asked the Minister for Health, in view of recent public concern about processed food quality, whether the time is right to review the situation and bring in standards which will protect the public health interest.

The Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture and Food have responsibilities in relation to processed food quality and I am satisfied that existing controls provide adequate safeguards for the protection of public health. The primary responsibility of my Department and of the health boards in relation to food is to ensure that food reaching the consumer is fit for consumption. The main statutory controls available for this purpose are the food hygiene regulations and the Sale of Food and Drugs Acts.

These controls are subject to continuous review by my Department in conjunction with interested groups such as the food law enforcement personnel, the food industry and other Government Departments.

Over the years the food hygiene regulations have generally proved to be an effective instrument of control. Following a recent review of the Regulations amendments will be made shortly which will give health boards additional powers in relation to mobile fast-food stalls, the transport of food and the closure of food operations which pose a serious risk to public health.

In conjunction with the amendment regulations, guidelines on structural and operational hygiene in relation to various categories of food premises are being prepared by my Department in consultation with the food trade and other interests. Guidelines on the cook/chill process are also being prepared.

I am also having a review undertaken of the Sale of Food and Drugs Acts in conjunction with EC proposals, which are at an advanced stage, for a directive on the official inspection of foodstuffs. These proposals cover hygiene, EC compositional standards, food additives and materials and articles in contact with food. The inspection operation will include sampling and analysis, inspection of food materials, food processes and food plant at any stage of the production process.

To supplement the statutory provisions I launched last year the Cleanwatch campaign which is primarily designed to raise the level of public awareness to food hygiene so that the public will insist on proper standards. A new training course for food workers was launched as part of the campaign. The campaign — which is an ongoing one — has proved to be very successful to date and I am developing further initiatives for 1989 to maintain its momentum.