Antigen testing gives food plants extra security

There was a steady stream of workers climbing the stairs to undergo rapid Covid-19 antigen testing at Dawn Farm Foods, a production plant in Naas, Co. Kildare, on Monday.

Since infections began to rise during this fourth wave, the company has gone from testing hundreds of employees once to twice a week, every Monday and Thursday.

The goal of the screening program, in place since March, is to detect possible cases of the disease before an infected person can cause an overpopulation event.

“Having antigen testing has just added another layer to feel like we have a safety net here, which we’ll quickly catch people if they don’t know they’re wrong,” says Nick Andrews, Covid’s head of food safety and defense. with the company.

With the latest wave of infection showing no signs of slowing down, despite high vaccination rates, the National Public Health Emergency Team and the Government have been slowly adopting the use of antigen testing as another tool in the fight against the virus.

Since last month, the Health Service Executive has been sending antigen testing kits to asymptomatic and fully vaccinated close contacts of virus cases. The Government plans to extend the rapid tests to schools and introduce a subsidy to encourage people to use them more generally.

The experience of antigen testing for food production companies and meat plants has been effective, although they may not be as definitive a diagnostic tool as the PCR tests used in HSE centers.

“I’m not trying to pretend to be so sensitive, but in a practical context… We consider them an extremely useful tool,” says Andrews.

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