More food processors hit by Covid

More food processors hit by Covid
Food processors are ensuring PPE helps mitigate risks

As reported last week by NI Insight, increased Covid cases are affecting meat and food processing plants.

Cranswick, a pig processing plant in Cullybackey, had to close its doors after 35 of its 500 staff tested positive for Coronavirus.

In a statement, Cranswick said: “There has been a recent increase in the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Ballymena and the wider region and this has been acknowledged as a community issue.

“As a result of this, we can confirm that a number of colleagues at our Ballymena site have tested positive for Covid-19.

“Working with the Public Health Authority (PHA), we have taken the decision to send all of our colleagues for testing. If the test results are positive, the individual will be required to self-isolate for 10 days; if the test results are negative, the individual will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.

Temporarily suspend production

“Therefore, the site will need to temporarily suspend production.”

The Public Health Agency said “number of significant recommendations” had been made to a business in the Mid and East Antrim Council area district.”

A PHA spokesperson said: “These include the testing of all staff this week and self-isolation of staff identified as close contacts of cases.”

Meanwhile, testing and tracing is also being carried out to identify staff who might potentially be affected to prevent further transmission, the PHA said.

Cranswick was the first meat company to close temporarily in Northern Ireland during the Covid pandemic, but it’s not the first to have cases among its workforce.

A number have shut in the Republic of Ireland and across Europe in recent months following Covid clusters. Cool temperatures and people working in close proximity on noisy production lines can facilitate it.

The fact that some meat plant staff tend to live or travel together can also be a factor, but processors have spent considerable sums putting measures in place to mitigate the risk.

PPE for workers

These include personal protection equipment for workers, screens to separate work stations on production lines and staggered shift times.

A major sandwich processing plant which employs over 2000 people near Northampton has also closed voluntarily. Greencore – which produces sandwiches for M&S, announced that around 300 staff has tested positive for coronavirus.

The firm said in a statement: “Greencore can confirm that, in consultation with the Department of Health & Social Care, PHE and other government bodies, it has taken the decision to temporarily cease production at its Northampton facility from the end of today as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in the Northampton area and at the site.

Some production has been moved to other sites the company owns, they added.