Two soups runs in Dublin could be forced to close after HSE inspectors sent a list of regulations they must adhere to if they want to continue feeding homeless people.
Denise Carroll, who co-founded the Homeless Street Cafe with her mother Anne Carroll five years ago, said the regulations could bring an end to their service.
Letters of compliance from HSE health inspectors were sent to Ms Carroll and the founder of Friends Helping Friends.
Ms Carroll said it is not possible to adhere to the regulations.
“They said we must register with the HSE as a site for every single kitchen that is used in our production,” she said.
“We have people who make sandwiches, bake cakes and make hot meals in their own kitchens and the HSE want all of them to register as a ‘site’.
“The volunteers must be trained and their kitchens opened to regular inspections. There is huge cost implications in that.
“We rely on a number of people and for me to say to them they have to jump through all of these hoops just to feed someone who is hungry is going to be a massive deterrent.
“It is the single thing that could close us.
“They also said we must have handwashing facilities. We are just a table on the side of Grafton Street where we serve the food.
“Some of these regulations are designed for the restaurant business and the food industry. They referred to us as a food business, but we are not. We are not a charity. We are a group of like-minded people who wanted to do something for people who are hungry, using our own resources.”
Ms Carroll said she has been left “devastated” at the threat of closing their facility.
The team has built up relationships with homeless people who visit them for food once a week.
“I am angry and annoyed for the homeless. When we go tonight there will be queues waiting for us already,” Ms Carroll added.
“Soup runs will all disappear if these heavy regulations are enforced.
“This is health and safety at its worst when we can’t feed people who are hungry because we have to do these things.
“They have told us next Tuesday is the deadline. I don’t know where it will go.
“I feel that we will keep on showing up otherwise there will be a massive hole left behind. If there are hundreds of people showing up every week then there is a need not being met.”
A spokeswoman for the HSE said: “The Environmental Health Service endeavours to work with food business operators to encourage an understanding of the legal requirements and to support compliance with the minimum food safety standards regarding structure, operation, safety management systems and staff training and to ensure compliance with food law where non-compliances are found upon inspection.
“It is important to note that persons accessing homeless services are among the most vulnerable in our community and may be immunocompromised, therefore the risk of serious illness as a result of food borne infection needs to be kept in mind.”
A spokeswoman for Dublin City Council said: “We are not aware of any formal concerns being raised with the HSE on this issue.
“Food safety is a matter for the HSE Inspectorate.
“There are several other organisations currently giving out food on the streets of Dublin City, and all DCC funded organisations running the various accommodation facilities provide food on site.”