Over 878Kg of food destroyed by Health Inspectorate
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The Environmental Health Directorate within the Public Health Regulation Department has issued it’s latest report of acitivities undertaken during the month of September, 2010 and also Court decisions taken in the past months of some contraventions issued by the Health Inspectorate.
Improvement notices issued to food business operators
478 improvement notices in terms of article 33 of the Food Safety Act have been issued to food business operators by the Health Inspectorate Services.
This notice is sent to all food business operators following an unannounced inspection by Environmental Health Officers within their establishment. The intention of this notice is to inform food operators about deficiencies noted in their establishments and the operator is given a specific deadline by which the deficiencies are to be remedied. Whilst the gravity of deficiencies might vary, legal action is initiated when major deficiencies are noted.
Undertakings with food business operators
During the same month, eleven undertakings were entered into with operators. The main reasons were structural deficiencies in food premises, for not implementing a food safety management system such as Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system, improperly labelled food, and failure to adopt food hygiene training.
Undertakings are legal agreements between the food business operators and the Health Authority specifying deadlines by which deficiencies in their premises should be remedied or to re-label products in compliance with standing legislation. Failure to abide with the agreed deadlines results in Court proceedings being initiated.
Destruction of food
In September, over 878kg of food and drinks were destroyed by the Health Inspectorate, ranging from frozen foods (600kg), spreads (82kg) honey (37.5kg), and several other miscellaneous food items.
Eleven audits at Hotels, and other similar premises to ascertain compliance with Control of Legionella Regulations, 2006 (L.N. 5 of 2006) and the Registration of Cooling Towers and Evaporative Condensers Regulations, 2006 (L.N. 6 of 2006) were performed by the Health Inspectorate.
Sixty consignments of food imported into Malta were also inspected by Environmental Health officers attached with the Port Health Services within this Directorate.
Ship sanitation certificates
During September, twenty seven Ship Sanitation Certificates were issued by the Port Health Services. Such inspections are carried out in terms of the International Health Regulations of 2005 and involve the assessment of the general hygienic conditions and control measures undertaken on ships. Such certificate needs to be renewed every 6 months at an authorised port, Malta being an authorised port.
Applications and consultations
During August another unit within the Environmental Health Directorate, the Food Safety Unit, received fifty requests to process applications to operate a food business. Prospective operators who wish to open a food business are obliged to apply for a building permit with the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) and then apply for the actual licence with the competent authority for example the Trade Licensing Unit or Malta Tourism Authority. At every stage, this Directorate is consulted in order to verify suitability of proposed premises.
During the same month, Environmental Health Officers deployed within this unit processed four consultations to food businesses and carried out a total of 76 visits.
Food related contraventions Six contraventions were issued to food business operators; one Festa hawker for exposing food to risk of contamination, keeping of food in unsuitable temperature conditions and structural deficiencies; one illegal catering establishment without necessary amenities to operate a food business; two hawkers for not providing necessary hand washing facilities; one confectionery for selling unpackaged meat products thus exposing a risk of contamination to other food; and another one for removing sealed items without authorisation.
Other Environmental Health related contraventions During September, another two contraventions were issued by the Health Inspectorate in relation to other environmental health issues, namely a tattooist for operating illegally from his own residence and a person caught smoking inside a non-smoking area at Mater Dei Hospital.
Emergency control and prohibition orders
During September, three emergency control orders were issued; one for illegal manufacture of food from own residence and sale of same for further retail, one for keeping an illegal catering establishment without necessary amenities to operate a food business and one for selling unpackaged meat products and hence causing a risk of contamination to other food.
Prohibition orders under the public health act
One prohibition order under the Public Health Act was also issued during this month, and as a consequence a tattooist who was operating illegally was ordered to desist from such practice by the Health Authority.
During September, one food product was withdrawn from the market in view of possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. Press release number 1752 was issued in this respect.
Food is recalled when there is a direct or indirect risk to human health due to the presence of foreign objects, pathogenic and potentially pathogenic organisms, adulteration of food, unauthorised GMOs, undeclared allergens, etc.
In the month of September, 861 samples were elevated by the Health Inspectorate and submitted to the Public Health Laboratory for analysis and/or examination for several parameters; • 153 food samples, • 100 potable water samples, • 348 sea water samples, and • 260 miscellaneous samples.
Bathing water monitoring programme
As stated above, during the month of September 348 samples of sea water were collected and submitted to the Public Health Laboratory to be analysed for microbiological parameters as stipulated by EU Directive 2006/7/EC. The bathing water monitoring programme is carried out in accordance with the provisions of said EU Directive. The official bathing season started on the 17th May 2010 and will last till the 24th October 2010. Sampling is carried out from 87 official bathing sites throughout the Maltese islands.
Up to the 19th week of the monitoring programme the 87 sites have been classified as follows: 82 sites as Excellent Quality, 3 sites as Good Quality and 2 sites of Sufficient Quality.
From the law courts
During the last three months, thirty one cases (out of 190 cases) were decided by the Magistrate’s Court during seven Health Sittings held. From these cases, those found guilty were sentenced with conditional discharges ranging from 1 month to 6 months whilst, a total of just over €2,400 fines were imposed as follows;
• Operator of van numbers HAB-706 and DAI-175 was fined a total of €1,500 for having in his possession improperly labelled products and others which have been tampered with, expired foodstuffs, and also for exposing food to risk of contamination on three different dates at Zurrieq open market (6th July, 2006), Luqa open market ( 21st August, 2006) and Zerafa Str., Marsa (29th August, 2008); and • Operators of Snoopy’s Restaurant, 256 Tower Road Sliema and Blue Cave Restaurant, Wied iz-Zurrieq were both fined €465.87 each for not complying with an undertaking endorsed by themselves. Contraventions date back 25th June, 2007 and 12th May, 2009 respectively.
In addition the following were given conditional discharges; • Operators of Maria Concetta Mini Market, Triq Rikardu Taylor Cospicua for having in 28th November 2005 food in his/her possession which was unfit for human consumption; • Operator of Magic Kiosk, Pjazza Sant’ Anna, Sliema for keeping unhygienic conditions on the 1st November 2007; • Operator of Hompesch Trading Company, Wied il-Ghasel, Burmarrad for having on the 12th March, 2009, food in his/her possession which was mouldy; • Operator of De La Tour Ent. Ltd., 1, Triq Sta Marija, Maghtab for possessing honey which did not meet criteria laid down in Legal Notice 213 of 2004 on the quality of honey (contravention dated 24th April, 2009); • S Quisite Snack Bar, Paceville for keeping unhygienic conditions on the 15th March, 2010; • Kiosk (Vehicle No CBQ-487) at Mqabba Feast for keeping unhygienic conditions on the 14th August, 2009 • Rojolin Bakery, 3 Churches Str, Balzan and John’s Food Market, Triq l-Inbid, Attard for having foodstuffs without proper labelling (both dated 4th June, 2010); and • M & S Discount Store, 69, Triq Matty Grima, Bormla for having in possession dairy products at improper temperature conditions and risk of contamination (citation dated 2nd July, 2010)
In the same month, 552 complaints were lodged with the Health Inspectorate. This is a reduction of 165 complaints over the previous month. These were categorized as follows:
Food related complaints Seventy-four of these complaints were related to food. The most common type of food complaints concerned improper storage of food (13 complaints), fitness of food (11 complaints), improper labelling of food (9 complaints), unhygienic premises (8 complaints), and personal hygiene and/or malpractices (7 complaints).
Other Environmental Health related complaints Another four hundred and seventy eight complaints were environmental health related. Once again, the most common type concerned presence of pests (156 complaints), infiltrations (87 complaints), accumulations of refuse (48 complaints), keeping of animals in unhygienic conditions (30 complaints), foul smells (36 complaints), unhygienic conditions (24 complaints), defective drains (23 complaints), and nineteen complaints on discharge of foul water.
During September the Environmental Health Directorate was also awarded ISO Certification 9001:2008 for it’s Quality Management System within the scope of dealing with complaints.
The Environmental Health Directorate reminds the public that it can contact the Health Inspectorate Services between 07:30am and 03:30pm on telephone number 21337333, by calling personally at its offices at 37-39, Rue D’Argens, Msida or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further information, the public is also encouraged to visit the Directorate’s website at URL: https://ehealth.gov.mt/HealthPortal/public_health/environmental-health/department_for_env_health.aspx