4,900 kg of cereals destroyed due to presence of insects

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4,900 kg of cereals destroyed due to presence of insectsAs done last year, the Environmental Health Directorate within the Superintendence of Public Health has issueed a report on activities undertaken throughout the previous month. The Directorate’s administration would like to take this opportunity to thank the public for its cooperation.

The following is a summary of some activities undertaken by the Environmental Health Directorate during 2011 including a report issued by the Health Inspectorate Services for the month of December, 2011.

SUMMARISED REPORT

The following is a summary of the report hereunder:

o 296 improvement notices were issued during this month, totalling 6,798 for 2011

o 8 undertakings were issued last month out of a total of over 150 for 2011;

o 4,930kg of foodstuffs were destroyed, amounting to over 40 tonnes in 2011

o 2 Legionella audits carried out of a total of 123 in 2011;

o 1 swimming pool was audited during 1 audit. 184 pools were audited in 79 audits throughout 2011;

o 33 new pools were registered in 2011;

o 5 schools inspected out of a total of 173 during 2011;

o 9 new private water suppliers registered in 2011;

o 7 abatement notices issued out of a total of 153 notices last year;

o 70 food consignments imported were inspected; a total of 756 for last year;

o 1840 notification for importing/trading food into Malta totalling 20,221 notifications a sharp increase of 3,773 notifications when compared to 2010;

o 12 Ship Sanitation certificates issued, out of a total of 273;

o 74 applications were processed out of a total of over 900 applications;

o 285 samples elevated and analysed. Over 7,000 samples elevated last year;

o Four products were recalled. 18 throughout 2011;

o 18 citations issued/processed out of a total of 150 contraventions;

o 4 operators were instructed to stop an activity, out of 34 in 2011;

o During 2011, 12 premises were closed down;

o 309 complaints lodged with the Health Inspectorate out of a total of over 6,200 complaints.

DETAILED REPORT

IMPROVEMENT NOTICES ISSUED TO FOOD BUSINESS OPERATORS

Two Hundred and Ninety Six improvement notices in terms of article 33 of the Food Safety Act have been issued to food business operators by the Health Inspectorate Services. During this year, over 6,798 improvement notices were issued; an increase of 1,229 improvement notices when compared to the previous year.

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 while the operator is given a specific deadline by when the deficiencies need to be remedied. Though the seriousness of deficiencies might vary, legal action is initiated when major deficiencies are noted.

UNDERTAKINGS

During the same month, eight undertakings were entered into with food business operators in terms of the Food Safety Act including to improve hygiene, improper labelling, to implement HACCP and to ensure that all food handlers undergo training on food hygiene. During 2011, over 150 undertakings were entered into.

Undertakings are legal agreements between the commercial operators and the Health Authority specifying deadlines by when 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 December, over 4,930kg of different foodstuffs were destroyed by the Health Inspectorate, ranging from:

• 4,900kg of cereals due to presence of insects;

• 13.5kg of Maltese type sausages, poultry and ham due to lack of traceability, risk of contamination and improper storage conditions;

• 13kgs of herbs and spices and 3.48kg of carob syrup due to improper labelling;

Throughout this year, over 40 tonnes of illegal foodstuffs was destroyed under the supervision of the Health Inspectorate. This is a decline of over 38tonnes when compared to the previous year.

LEGIONELLA AUDITS AND POOL INSPECTIONS

Two 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 during last month. During 2011, the total number of Legionella audits carried out was 123.

During the same month, one swimming pool was inspected during one relevant audit carried out by the Health Inspectorate to verify compliance with Swimming Pools Regulations, 2005 (L.N. 129 of 2005). This regulation specifies that all swimming pools with the exception of those situated at a single family residence need to register with this Directorate. 184 pools were inspected during 79 pool audits, last year.

During December no swimming pools, were registered with this Directorate in terms of mentioned regulations; but throughout last year 33 new pools were registered. A list of registered pools can be found in the Directorate’s website mentioned below.

INSPECTIONS OF SCHOOLS

During December, five schools were inspected to ensure compliance with general hygiene requirements, whilst during last year, 173 of such inspections were carried out. Such inspections are carried out in private, government or church owned schools and whether, primary, secondary, tertiary or language or special schools.

PRIVATE WATER SUPPLIERS

Although there were no new private water suppliers, during 2011 nine new private water suppliers were registered with the Health Authority. Further information on the approved water suppliers can be obtained from https://ehealth.gov.mt/HealthPortal/public_health/environmental-health/health_inspectorate/env._hlt._risk_management/private_water_supplies.aspx.

ABATEMENT NOTICES

Seven abatement notices were issued during the previous month by the Health Inspectorate in terms of the Public Health Act in view of inspections and audits carried out in the previous days. A total of 153 abatement notices were issued during 2011.

FOOD CONSIGNMENTS

Seventy consignments of food imported/traded into Malta were also inspected during December by Environmental Health Officers attached with the Port Health Services within this Directorate. Throughout this year, the Port Health Services inspected 756 consignments of foodstuffs.

CONSIGNMENTS DOCUMENTARY CHECKS

1,840 requests for importation/trading of foodstuffs were submitted to the Port Health Services as required by Trading Regulations of 2004 (Legal Notice 315 of 2004 which can be downloaded from http://www.justiceservices.gov.mt/DownloadDocument.aspx?app=lom&itemid=11120&l=1). This is a considerable increase when compared to previous months, probably due to increased awareness of traders and increase in enforcement by food related authorities following a press release (PR 1531) issued in August.

All traders of food including food contact materials and food supplements are reminded to notify the Port Health Services, 48hours in advance.

During last year, 20,221 notifications were submitted to Port Health Services. This is an increase of 3,773 notifications when compared to previous year. This sharp increase is probably due to increased awareness which followed increased enforcement.

SHIP SANITATION CERTIFICATES

During December, twelve 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 involves 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.

During 2011, two hundred seventy three certificates were issued following inspections on ships.

APPLICATIONS AND CONSULTATIONS

During December, the Health Inspectorate received seventy-four requests to process applications to operate food and non-food business. Prospective operators who wish to open such businesses are obliged to apply for a permit with the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) and then apply for the actual licence with the competent authority such as the Trade Licensing Unit or Malta Tourism Authority. At every stage, this Directorate is consulted in order to verify suitability of proposed premises.

Over 900 applications were processed by the Health Inspectorate last year.

During the same month, Environmental Health Officers deployed with the Food Safety Unit, which is involved in the licensing of food related business carried out a total of 70 visits.

SAMPLES

During December, 285 samples were elevated by the Health Inspectorate and submitted to the Public Health Laboratory for analysis and/or examination for several parameters;

o 149 food samples,

o 63 potable water samples,

o 20 swabs,

o 40 infiltration water samples,

o 13 other samples.

During the last year, the Directorate completed its sampling programmes which consisted of 16 microbiological sampling programmes and 28 chemical sampling programmes.

Last year, over 7,000 samples were submitted for analysis at the Public Health Laboratory.

RECALLS

During last month, four products were recalled as follows:

• Soup and sauce ladles due to presence of formaldehyde.

• Paste due to presence of Epoxidised Soya Bean oil.

• Slimming tea due to the presence of Sibutramine.

Throughout last year, locally, 18 products were recalled through 13 press releases issued, most of which ended up in the European Union’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed. In 2011, a total of 3,812 original notifications were transmitted by all Members of the RASFF. The EU’s RASFF portal is accessible from URL: http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/rapidalert/rasff_portal_database_en.htm

CONTRAVENTIONS

In the past month, eighteen contraventions were issued/processed by the Health Inspectorate, all of which were related to food safety issues:

• A warehouse operator due to pest infestation, food handlers and premises not registered with Food Safety Commission, keeping of premises in unhygienic conditions, improper lighting in warehouse and improper ventilation in sanitary convenience;

• A packer for packing food which gave the wrong impression regarding its origin, and not being of the quality, substance and nature demanded by the purchaser.

• A supermarket for offering for sale a foodstuff containing foreign object and without a durability date;

• An operator for failing to register as a Trader, using a store which was also not registered with the Food Safety Commission and failing to notify competent authorities 48hours in advance of the intention to trade foodstuffs into Malta;

• Four hawkers in two open markets for having in possession foodstuffs that might mislead consumers as regards to durability date, foodstuffs without any label, failed to provide adequate equipment, washing facilities, exposing food to risk of contamination and failed to attend food hygiene training;

• Two hotels and a snack bar for failing to abide with an undertaking;

• A factory and two retailers for providing and selling food with foreign matter;

• A packer for tampering with labelling of food;

• A snack bar for failing to register as a food handler; and

• One trader for delivering foodstuffs in an inappropriate condition.

Over 150 contraventions were issued by the Health Inspectorate throughout 2011; involving both food safety and environmental health issues.

FROM THE LAW COURTS

During the last three months, forty cases (out of 266 cases) were decided by the Magistrate’s Court during eleven Health Sittings held. From these cases, forty seven cases were new whilst the remaining were brought forward from other months/years. Throughout 2011, 925 cases were brought forward the Magistrates Court, who decided 372 cases in 40 health sittings.

From the cases heard in the last quarter, those found guilty were given conditional discharges ranging from 2 months to 30 months and to fines, the total of which amounted to €3,300. The fines were imposed on the operators of:

o Practical Trading of Handaq, Qormi was fined €600 for importing foodstuffs without notifying competent authorities and without having durability date and proper labelling. Case dates back to 29th November, 2006;

o San Anton Hotel, Triq ir-Ramel, St.Paul’s Bay was fined €300 for permitting black soot to be emitted from chimney back in 30th October, 2005.

o Ta’ Natu Supermarket, Constitution Street, Mosta was fined €200 for removing sealed items without the permission of the Health Authority back in 28th May, 2008.

o Burgu Farm, Triq is-Sewwieqa, Hamrun was fined €500 for exposing food to risk of contamination, not providing enough hand washing facilities and sinks for rinsing of food, walls in a bad state of repair, premises not approved by Veterinary Services and improper labelling. Operator was also fined €200 for obstructing the health authorities from performing their duties. This case dates back to 29th March, 2005.

o Gelateria Lungomare, Testaferrata Str, GSira was fined €500 for not abiding with an undertaking entered into 12th April, 2010

o Good Earth Distributors Ltd and Hompesch Trading Co. Ltd of Hard Rocks, Industrial Park, Burmarrad Road, Naxxar were fined €500 each for producing and distributing foodstuffs which were not of the nature, substance and quality as requested by consumer on the 3rd September, 2010;

The following were given conditional discharges for a stipulated period:

30 months

• Operator of Philip Stall next to Numero Uno, Crafts Village, Ta’ Qali for removing food sealed by the Health Authority without permission on 7th April, 2011 and for being a relapser.

24 months

• Operator of Helen Bakery, St. Helen Street, Sliema for keeping inside the bakery painted wood on the 8th June 2011;

• Operator of Sciberras Distributing Agency Ltd. N/S Mdina Rd. sebbua was taken to court since on the 25th June, 2010 removed food sealed by the Health Authority without permission, and for not abiding to Court order given in 12th May, 2010.

• One of the operators of Good Earth, Valletta Market, Merchant Street, Valletta for having on the 26th April, 2011 in possession foodstuffs with tampered durability date and other products with lapsed ‘Use By’ date, and food handler not registered with Food Safety Commission.

20 months

• Resident at No.6, Maple Court, Censu Tanti Street, St.Paul’s Bay for producing foodstuffs without the necessary registration, keeping food under unhygienic conditions, exposing food to risk of contamination, food handler not registered with Food Safety Commission. Case dates to 22nd June, 2011.

12 months

• Operator of St. Catherine’s Butcher, Misrah ir-Repubblika, sejtun for failing to provide adequate hand washing facilities, adequate lighting, proper disposal of animal by products and an anteroom, and for failing to comply with HACCP requirements and for not having an adequate traceability system on 5th January 2011.

• Operator of Drop Inn, Ix-Xatt ta’ Tigne, Sliema for allowing customers to smoke inside premises on 11th July, 2011.

6 months

• Operator of Galea and Galea Enterprises, No.9, Sqaq Tal-Cidi, Luqa for providing for sale foodstuffs with misleading information and nutritional information on label not in an official language.

3 months

• Kosecp Ltd., Attrans Garage B, Mdina Rd, Zebbug for not having a traceability system in place and for not giving required information to the Health Authority on 14th November, 2008;

• One of the operators of Good Earth, Valletta Market, Merchant Street, Valletta for having on the 26th April, 2011 in possession foodstuffs with tampered durability date and other products with lapsed ‘Use By’ date, and food handler not registered with Food Safety Commission

2 months

• Fif’s Pastizzerija, Testaferrata Street, Gzira for selling an energy drink on 26th July, 2008 and for having in possession an energy drink with a misleading durability date;

EMERGENCY CONTROL ORDERS

During December, the following operators were served with emergency control orders as follows:

1. Three private water suppliers were deregistered from the list of approved water suppliers due to high nitrate level in the borehole water being used;

2. A canteen operator was stopped from handling food due to unhygienic conditions inside premises.

During 2011, 34 food related activities were stopped for a period.

EMERGENCY PROHIBITION ORDERS

During last month, no premises were close down by the Health Authority due to imminent risk to public health; but during 2011 twelve premises were closed down.

COMPLAINTS

In December, 309 complaints were lodged with the Directorate which were categorised in one or more category, as follows:

o Food related complaints

78 complaints were related to food. The most common type of food complaints concerned unhygienic premises (18 complaints), improper labelling (17 complaints), unfit food (18 complaints), and risk of contamination (10 complaints)

o Other Environmental Health related complaints

Another 401 complaints were environmental health related. The most common type concerned presence of pests (51 complaints), infiltrations (46 complaints) and accumulations of refuse (29 complaints),

Note: The number of complaints and the number of categories do not tally, since one complaint received may encompass one or more categories.

Throughout last year, just over 6,200 complaints were investigated in terms of it’s ISO certification by the Health Inspectorate; an amount similar to previous year.

The Environmental Health Directorate takes this opportunity to remind the public that it can contact the Health Inspectorate Services between 7:30am and 3:30pm on telephone number 21337333, by calling personally at its offices at 37-39, Rue D’Argens, Msida or by email complaints.ph@gov.mt .

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 or on its facebook page on http://www.facebook.com/pages/Environmental-Health-Directorate-Malta/145027878928626

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