My Department’s statutory responsibility in the context of meat plants is to ensure that the DAFM-approved meat plants operate in compliance with the EU’s food hygiene legislation, animal health and animal welfare standards.
Approximately 250 veterinary and technical staff from my Department are routinely involved in supervising, regulating and controlling these standards at DAFM approved meat plants. Department veterinary staff resources in meat plants are supplemented by a group of approximately 700 Temporary Veterinary Inspectors, who are Private Veterinary Practitioners contracted by the Department to deliver ante-mortem and post-mortem inspection of animals and poultry in meat plants. A total of 149 meat premises are approved by my Department, with specific approvals for activities including slaughtering, deboning and/or cold storage of cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry. Of these, DAFM has a ‘permanent presence’ at the 49 premises which slaughter animals and carries out risk-based inspections and controls at the remaining approved meat premises.
In addition, 7 inspectorate and technical staff from my Department’s Beef Carcase Classification Division monitor carcase classification in 38 beef and pig premises to ensure that it is in compliance with EU and Irish Legislation.
In relation to inspections carried out by Departmental staff in connection with my Department’s statutory responsibilities as outlined above, 406 veterinary inspections were carried out in DAFM approved meat plants in the first quarter of 2020. The number of inspections carried out in the second quarter will not be available until the end of that period. In addition, 208 carcase classification inspections by Beef Carcase Classification Division were carried out in the meat plants up to 22nd May 2020.
As you will be aware, in the context of the pandemic, primary responsibility for public health policy and implementation rests with the Department of Health and the HSE. Responsibility for health and safety in the workplace rests with the Health and Safety Authority, under the auspices of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.
As part of the whole of Government response to the pandemic, my Department will continue to contribute to the HSE-chaired National Outbreak Control Team and will provide any support required to the HSE at local and national level. My Department has assisted in the dissemination of the HSE guidance to the DAFM approved meat plants. In addition, my Department has sought an update from plant management on the measures which have been put in place in each plant to implement these guidelines. To this end, along with its statutory role in relation to food safety, animal welfare and animal health, my Department will support the HSE and the Health and Safety Authority in monitoring the effective implementation of the guidance in DAFM-approved meat plants.