There will be a rolling fortnightly testing programme for coronavirus put in place at meat factories, Minister for Agriculture Dara Calleary has said.
It will be initially rolled out for 2,500 meat processing workers in Kildare, Laois and Offaly before an extension to 15,000 nationwide workers, the minister told RTÉ This Week on Sunday.
A meeting will take place between the Minister’s department and the HSE on Monday to scope out the rollout of the programme. Minister Calleary said he wanted it to get under way “as soon as possible”.
Whether it will be factories that pay for the necessary testing facilities or if public money will be used will be part of Monday’s discussion.
The Minister said he would like to see the meat industry “step up and pay” as the outbreaks not only affected them but the wider population. In the four outbreaks confirmed to date there has been a combination of private and HSE testing.
Protocols put in place for meat plants in May will be reviewed in light of the outbreaks. One slaughter plant, Kildare Chilling in Kildare Town, and three processing facilities, Carroll’s Cuisine in Tullamore, O’Briens Fine Foods in Timahoe and the Irish Dog Food factory in Naas have seen outbreaks in recent weeks.
Minister Calleary called for unannounced inspections of meat factories to ensure adherence to the protocols and workers’ rights.
“I think that should become the policy. Farmers who have farm safety inspections don’t get notice, so the same should apply to industry,” he stated.
It was his understanding that 20 inspections had been carried out by the Health and Safety Authority, with one plant being inspected three times.
As of Sunday afternoon, three of the four plants across Offaly and Kildare that have suffered outbreaks, including Kildare Chilling which slaughters cattle and sheep, have confirmed they will not be reopening on Monday.
Cattle and sheep kills to remain suspended at Kildare Chilling
Meat industry meets with authorities to review COVID-19 protocols