The crime scene outfit is only available in a uniform size. Hair cap and shoe covers fit perfectly, the female protective suit, on the other hand, still has a lot of air around the hooves. "When getting dressed, make sure that the arms do not touch the floor!", warns dr. Werner hornung. Nothing escapes his eyes. Whether it’s dust on the lockers, splashes on the walls, or insect flukes in the flytrap, hornung has developed a merciless eye for detail in his twelve years as head of consumer protection in habfurt. But his department is facing new challenges in light of the corona crisis. Controls must nevertheless be carried out.
Normally hornung would show up completely uninformed. With a short phone call, however, he announces that he will be accompanied this time. Beforehand, the official veterinarian had asked district administrator wilhelm schneider whether food inspections could continue to take place in view of the risk of infection. The answer was a resounding yes. That was a week ago. Shortly afterwards, the bavarian state ministry for the environment and consumer protection tightened up the regulations once again.
Food inspection: not all establishments are the same
"In the case of large-scale operations, inspections are always carried out under the four-eyes principle", hornung explains as he stows his suitcase and protective gear in the car. "At the small chip shop around the corner, on the other hand, two eyes are enough." The conditions of admission have also become more stringent for the target of today’s food inspection: visitors to the habfurt "maintal" confectionery factory a coarse disinfectant dispenser awaits him in the entrance area. Then comes the corona check: guests must affirm that they have had no contact with infected persons or have recently been in risk areas. "Actually, we don’t let anyone in externally anymore", explains food technologist christan hastedt on admission control. Hornung is of course an exception.
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With a loud "achtung" the inspector will check when entering the locker room to avoid unpleasant surprises for staff members. When inspecting the locker, he pays particular attention to the separation of work and work clothes and that the latter are not too dirty in the locker. The locker room would benefit from an additional shelf for shoes, according to the verdict. Otherwise he was satisfied.
In the rough warehouse next door, unsightly marks are visible on the linoleum floor and water damage has left a stain on the ceiling, hornung notes as his gaze routinely scans the room and his flashlight shines in every corner. "But all this does not affect the production, everything is packed here." There is a basic risk of contamination in all operations, but for highly sensitive products, such as baby food or minced meat, the risk is much higher.
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"In a dairy, the requirements were even more stringent", confirms hastedt as he guides hornung through the individual steps of the production chain. "For example, milk could not be produced here." The intervals at which a company is inspected also depend on whether it has attracted negative attention in the past. "If you notice anything here, the defects are corrected after a few weeks", hornung praises the maintal factory. "This is not the case for all farms."
The fear of an imminent curfew has just given the jam manufacturer rising sales figures: "these are canned goods", hastedt explains the hamster purchases. "In the summer it will probably be less, if then all are equipped."
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The tightened regulations to minimize corona spread are also affecting day-to-day operations at the plant. "Due to the current situation, we have tightened up our internal rules a little more. We try to keep a minimum distance of 1.5 meters. It’s a bit difficult in production, but all employees have been trained on it and we regularly check that it’s being adhered to.", describes hastedt.
Maintal employees sent home
Some employees from the commercial and human resources departments now work from home in order to stand in as a substitute if necessary. "Our production staff have been made aware that they should report respiratory illnesses – even if they seem trivial. At the moment we are still able to produce in two shifts without any restrictions", hastedt assures. In the delivery and pickup area, separate desks have been set up for drivers to sign, and there are also mobile wcs where employees can wash and disinfect their hands. "To keep contamination as low as possible."
After around two hours, hornung’s inspection was completed, and he was very satisfied with the condition of the plant. The few deficiencies will now be noted in the inspection report. Normally, he would have indulged in a cup of coffee at the end of the meal. But the next meeting of the corona coordination group is already waiting.
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~2200 farms from habberge county are registered in the system of consumer protection, which must be checked regularly. This can range from inspections of pubs and restaurants to calls for goods or cases of animal diseases.
1/1000 of the glaziers are sorted out at each cooking session: one cooking session results in around 2000 glaziers, an average of two of which are considered rejects due to errors in packaging or consistency. This is determined by a foreign body test.
Stricter regulations for consumer protection
In order to keep health risks as low as possible, the state ministry for the environment and consumer protection has announced that it will limit the current inspections by veterinary offices as far as possible.
All activities that are necessary and cannot be postponed must continue to take place. This includes inspections to ensure the safe movement of food and food-producing animals, such as meat inspections at slaughterhouses, animal health inspections, certification activities and import inspections. This also applies to animal disease controls in suspect or outbreak traps.
The inspectors must observe appropriate safety measures, such as maintaining a minimum distance, avoiding direct physical contact and wearing protective clothing. However, there is no special corona protective clothing.
Similarly, operations will continue to be inspected where food safety is directly affected, for example, by food that is unsafe, hazardous to health or unfit for human consumption. It must be decided on a case-by-case basis whether an on-site inspection is necessary or whether the inspections can also be carried out elsewhere. Random inspections also continue to take place when there are indications of significant animal welfare violations.