The world’s biggest producer of pork, Smithfield Foods, announced it will close one of its pork-processing facilities after many workers at the plant tested positive for coronavirus.
Martin Wiedmann, a food scientist and professor of food safety at Cornell University, says that the shutdown illustrates the challenges of minimizing the risk of contagion among workers in the food industry.
“This shutdown illustrates the challenges that different segments of the food industry face and will continue to face. With the COVID-19 case numbers we have in the U.S., most larger food processing facilities will be expected to have COVID-19 cases among their employees.
“While implementing social distancing practices in facilities, along with use of face masks or face coverings is essential, improved collaborative efforts between food processors and local, state, and federal agencies on how to manage COVID-19 cases in large food processing facilities is also essential. Furthermore, consistent messaging and consistent strategies are needed to minimize the risk of COVID-19 spread in processing facilities and to ensure employee confidence in workplace safety, which is essential to maintain critical food processing capabilities.”