August 10, 2020

Feds Investigating Six Meatpacking Plants After COVID-19 Outbreaks

Federal regulators are investigating six meatpacking plants after large COVID-19 outbreaks have been linked to those facilities. The plants include JBS Packerland in Green Bay, Wisconsin, American Foods Group in Green Bay, Smithfield Foods in Cudahy, Wisconsin, and Salms Partners in Denmark, Wisconsin, Pizza crust manufacturer TNT Crust in Green Bay and Birds Eye Foods in Darien, Wisconsin are also being investigated, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.

Feds Investigating Six Meatpacking Plants After COVID-19 Outbreaks

Meatpacking and meat processing plants have become hotspots for coronavirus illnesses in the past few weeks. Smithfield Foods in South Dakota had to close last week after 300 employees were sickened by the virus. One of the issues with these facilities is that employees have to work in close contact with each other. Employees have also criticized hygiene standards at that plants.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has warned these food processors that inspections will begin if they did not know they were taking proper precautions to protect employees and prevent the spread of the virus.

Brown County in Wisconsin now has more than 600 positive cases. About half of those cases are linked to meatpacking plants; most were associated with the JBS plant.

While the USDA and OSHA have issued rules for these plants to follow, the guidance is voluntary.

Deborah Berkowtiz, worker health and safety program director with the National Employment Law Project, told WPR that these corporations did not implement the CDC recommendations. Those recommendations included social distancing, providing masks to employees, and making sure all employees could wash their hands repeatedly with soap and water.

Some consumer advocate groups, including Food & Water Watch, have been very critical of meatpacking plants. Last week that agency called for the immediate closure of slaughterhouses where employees are sick with COVID-19. They want the National Guard to be mobilized to support food distribution around the country.

 

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