An old man with a goat on a field.

Environmental health

The Regional State Administrative Agency (AVI) is responsible for the regional supervision of environmental health issues. The AVI Agency works to secure a safe living environment as well as fair and high-quality environmental health services for the citizens and operators and to protect animal welfare. The Agency directs and evaluates the activities of municipal units supervising environmental health, acts itself in a supervisory role and issues certain permits and notifications in its area. The AVI Agency processes complaints concerning the activities of municipal environmental health care authorities.

Aims of supervision

The objective of environmental health care is to protect the citizens from various environmental hazards. This encompasses good quality domestic water, a healthy residential and living environment, safe foods, chemicals, consumer goods and services, healthy and happy animals and effective veterinary care. By enforcing compliance with environmental health care legislation we can make sure that any activities with an impact on our living environment are planned and carried out safely and that the risks are minimized.

The following areas are within the remit of the environmental health care administration:

  • Food safety
  • Animal health and welfare
  • Chemical control
  • Consumer safety
  • Oversight of health protection
  • Supervision of compliance with the Tobacco Act.

Supervisory authorities

The principal responsibility for practical supervision of environmental health rests with the local authorities. At the level of municipalities, this supervision is performed by a body with multiple members, for example a committee.

In practice, the supervision is carried out by veterinary officers, sanitary inspectors and public health and environmental engineers to whom the committee has delegated part of its competence. The local government has a statutory duty to provide adequate resources for supervision, and this task is thus usually managed by environmental health supervision units serving a larger area than individual municipalities. These units draw up environmental health supervision plans for themselves, and supervision is carried out both systematically and based on reports received by the supervision units.

The AVI Agency directs the activities of local authorities supervising environmental health, evaluates the arrangement of environmental health care in municipalities and supervises its implementation. The Agency supports the expertise of municipal supervisory authorities by providing guidance in the interpretation of and compliance with environmental health care legislation, by organising working meetings and training, and through various control visits to and audits of the supervision units.

The AVI Agency is responsible for regional preparedness required under the Animal Diseases Act (eläintautilaki 55/1980) and for directing preparedness planning in the area of environmental health in municipalities, and it monitors food and water-borne epidemics in its area.

The AVI Agency processes complaints against municipal authorities supervising environmental health and handles certain permits and notifications in this sector. Some duties are centrally performed by a single Regional State Administrative Agency; for example, approvals and supervision of reindeer abattoirs are handled by the AVI Agency for Lapland, and issues related to inhumation by the AVI Agency for Eastern Finland.

Each AVI Agency prepares an annual environmental health supervision plan on which its activities are based and which takes into account the national environmental health supervision programme that covers food control, animal health and welfare and consumer safety.

In the AVI Agencies, environmental health supervision is carried out by senior environmental health inspectors and provincial veterinary officers.

There are three central environmental health agencies in Finland that direct the activities of the AVI Agencies and municipal environmental health supervision units. These central agencies are the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health Valvira, the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira and the Finnish Safety and Chemical Agency Tukes.

The central organisations work together to prepare a national environmental health supervision programme, which the municipal supervision units and AVI Agencies must take into consideration in their own environmental health supervision plans.

The highest level of steering and drafting of legislation in environmental health issues falls within the remit of four different ministries, or the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Ministry of Employment and the Economy and the Ministry of the Environment.