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Malta has long had a reputation for excellence in Public Health, with measures to prevent the introduction of infection being recorded in the early 1500’s, when ships were isolated in Marsaxett Harbour. An organized enforcement body, the ‘Magistri Sanitatis,’ was set up in 1538, during the time of the Order of St John. Strict enforcement of the law was practiced and emphasis was made on the construction of intricate sewage and drinking water systems, some of which are still operational to this very day. In January 1799, an inspector Mattew Pulis, was shot by the French as his ‘right of entry’ enabled him to act as a go-between between the Maltese insurgents both inside and outside the walls of Valletta.
Following a Royal Commission in 1838, the Water Police and the Quarantine Departments were amalgamated under the Superintendent of Quarantine. A review of measures to prevent disease gave rise to a comprehensive set of regulations which were later consolidated in a special ordinance embodied in Maltese law. The next major changes took place in 1885 and 1895, with the formation of the Public Health Department. Someone who left his mark during this time was Sir Temi Zammit, a Medical Officer of Health who was instrumental in the initiation of chlorination of water supplies, six months after its benefits were discovered in the United Kingdom. In 1887, together with Sir Robert Bruce, a British army doctor, Dr. Zammit isolated the Brucella Melitensis organism from the spleen of a dead British soldier.
The first association for Health Inspectors, or rather Sanitary Inspectors as they were known prior to 1957, was set up in 1935 under the name Sanitary Inspectors Association. The aim of the Association was then to disseminate knowledge on public health matters and it also carried out the duties of a union in order to safeguard the rights of its members. It was affiliated with the Association of Health Inspectors of the United Kingdom. It was also responsible for the establishment of the local representation of the Royal Society of Health in Malta. Unfortunately, the Society became increasingly fragmented during the early nineteen seventies and gradually disappeared.
A new society, the Malta Association of Health Inspectors was reactivated in 2003. The name was eventually changed to The Malta Association of Environmental Health Officers following a change in the official nomenclature of the Inspectorate.
Its mission statement: The Association is committed to render the highest level of public service in the field of food safety and environmental health, to establish an identity and voice for the Health Inspectors of Malta and Gozo, and to enhance their professional needs.
Activities of note that were held since then include a seminar held in collaboration with the Food Law Enforcement Practitioners Organisation (FLEP), seminars on Ventilation and Smoking, Legionnaires’ disease and HACCP. A working holiday was also organized for its members in Manchester, and members of the committee also attended for meetings held by the IFEH and EFEH. The Food Safety Commission also entrusted the association with an FP6 project entitled ‘Diet and Food Contaminants in the Maltese Islands’. The success of this enabled MAEHO to enter into another successful project which was the acquiring of the premises from which it could operate. The premises situated in Gzira were officially opened by the Minister of Health in December 2006. The building consists of an office, boardroom and a lecture room. There is also a commercial outlet within the premises itself operated by MAEHO which principally sells items related directly to the food industry. MAEHO also issues a quaterly magazine for all its members called ‘Tas-Sanita’ which is a title the public uses when referring to Environmental Health Officers. It also organizes courses for Food Handlers and carries out sampling of water to test for the presence of Legionella. It is in the process of offering consultations in various matters related to Food Safety namely HACCP and Food Safety Management Systems.
All Health Inspectors are committed to: