8th July 2022 Caption: EHS staff members, Deirdre Devine and Emma Connolly
HSE Environmental Health Service (EHS) staff recently moved into a purpose-built new building in Yard 4 in Dublin Port. In 2019 the EHS team carried out 2008 food inspections including document checks in Dublin Port. By 2021 in a post-Brexit world the number of inspections had jumped to 55,617. Staff are on target to overtake this number in 2022.
The facilities in the new building allow the EHS team to deal with greater volumes of goods. There are huge improvements with EHS staff having access to improved sampling rooms, more bays, better cold storage and other facilities and improved office space.
Ann Marie Part, HSE Assistant National Director for Environmental Health explains: ‘‘The work being done by the EHS team at Dublin port is really essential work. The HSE Environmental Health Service has a statutory responsibility to ensure that foods of non-animal origin, tobacco, alcohol, vaping products, and cosmetics are all assessed to make sure they are safe for the public in the first instance and that they are compliant with EU legislation.
“Our move to the new premises means we now have five EHS inspection bays in Dublin Port compared with the two we had previously. EHS staff are undertaking more physical exams of the food products and food contact materials entering Ireland and the wider EU from third countries thus ensuring safe food entering the food chain. These are tangible benefits for the Irish public. This is all about making sure goods are safe for human consumption. Ultimately this is about protecting public health.’’
The area where the HSE staff work is a very busy location. Lorries back into HSE inspection bays in Yard Four at a busy Dublin port where goods are unloaded and checked. Operationally on an average week, the team will carry out 1,100 food inspections and document checks.
EHS staff members work a 12-hour shift at Dublin Port and the team operates over seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Eight ferries arrive daily in four peaks separated by about six hours. Both EHS staff and hauliers are obviously keen to keep goods moving and to avoid congestion and delays arising. Perishable goods are checked and moved on quickly. Where necessary food samples are sent to the public analyst laboratory.
It’s a fast paced, busy operational environment checking goods and products coming into Ireland from outside the EU, including the UK in the post-Brexit world. Legislation governs all of the document and other checks which are carried out on the range of imported items including foods of non-animal origin, food contact materials from China and Hong Kong, cosmetics and tobacco.
The teams work closely with Revenue and other State agencies including the Food Safety Authority. In certain cases they will carry out dual inspections with the Department of Agriculture.
Document checks are carried out on all foods of non-animal origin coming in. Routine sampling is carried out on other foods such as spices from Pakistan. Rice from Pakistan and India is an example of a product that’s on a controlled list and has to be inspected.
Data fed back to the European Commission as a result of routine sampling carried out in Dublin Port has resulted in improved EU food control legislation.
Almost all of the goods moved in and out of Dublin Port are transported by haulage companies, large and small. For hauliers it’s really important that they are able to move their goods in and out of Dublin Port quickly and efficiently.
Watch to see EHS staff in operation at Dublin Port below.