With infections detected in meat plants of America, Europe, and Australia, they become hotspots for Covid-19 across the world.
2400 Meat Plant Workers Catch Coronavirus in Brazil
The labour prosecutors’ office released a statement that around 2400 meat plant workers in Brazil’s southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul. This number includes employees from 24 slaughterhouses in 18 municipalities and makes about 25.7% of the 9,332 confirmed cases of coronavirus. Consequently, the Toennies GmbH factory near Guetersloh in western Germany is currently shut. The district administration said that workers who returned from Romania after the relaxation of European border controls might have caused the outbreak. The latest Toennies outbreak is the largest in the country. Hence, the authorities are planning stringent standards involving frequent inspections and hefty fines relating to subcontracting workers across the borders.
Brazil is the biggest beef and chicken exporter and the fourth biggest pork exporter in the world. The country has 446 meat plants, that is 194 beef, 148 poultry, 90 pork plants, and 14 for other types of meat. An official stated that each meat plant employs around 2000 workers on an average. That said, the meat plants have become a hotspot of the coronavirus in the country.
China Bans German Meat Imports Fearing the Second Wave of Coronavirus
China has banned the import of pork from Germany as 650 out of 1000 staff at the meatpacking plant in Germany test positive for coronavirus. The General Administration of Customs, China banned the imports after German authorities warned the country of the cluster of infections. The ban has added to the concerns of the officials because the halt in protein shipments for a country with 1.4 billion people has come just after restriction on salmon shipments from European countries.
China to Ensure Stricter Regulation on Hygiene in Meat Markets
China’s Ministry of Commerce stated that it would communicate with the countries as the import of food products is a crucial part of China’s proactive policy. However, the imports must comply with China’s relevant inspection and quarantine regulations to ensure safety. Addressing the outbreak, Chinese authorities have ramped up the testing of imported seafood and meat. The Chinese customs reported that they had tested 32,174 samples from agricultural and manufacturing imports between June 11 and June 17. Responding to this, Norway’s Fisheries and Seafood Minister clarified that Norwegian salmon is not the source of coronavirus.
On the other hand, Beijing’s wholesale food market (Xinfadi) witnessed a massive outbreak in the meat and seafood sections. The reports found out that patients from the seafood market showed symptoms earlier than those working in the beef and mutton sections. Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist at Chinese CDC, said that the surge is due to low temperature and high humidity. Also, experts have warned people of eating raw salmon after the virus was discovered on chopping boards used for imported salmon. The government will address low standards of hygiene in wholesale food markets urgently.
Several Meat Processing Units Shut in the UK
Several meat processing units have shut down in the UK after witnessing a surge in coronavirus cases in the plants. Two poultry processing giants in Wales have suspended their operation after reporting coronavirus cases. Similarly, Rowan foods in Wales has shut down its factory after reporting 38 positive cases. Also, a meat processer in northern England owned by British supermarket Asda has shut temporarily after reporting coronavirus cases. It justifies that it was working with the guidelines of public health authorities and tested its staff.
UK Government to Introduce a Plan for Reviving Food Industry
The UK government has launched a package of measures to support the agriculture, food, and drink industry. The ‘bounce back’ plan consists of physical and virtual events. It includes overseas virtual buyer trial, a ‘Smart Distance Selling Process’. Besides, it has a package of ‘Ready to Trade’ Exporting Masterclass webinars. Also, the UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT) along with the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) will launch a new SME E-commerce Accelerator Pilot. The move will aid the e-commerce backing of SMEs in the food and drink industry. Besides, the plan will bring Defra’s first Agri-food Counsellor serving the Gulf, representing the UK’s exporting interests.
Meat plants shut in parts of India
The Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) has ordered the closure of all meat shops till 30th June. The authorities have taken this decision citing the crowding at the meat stalls.
Around 25,000 reported positive coronavirus cases are associated with the U.S. meatpacking facilities. The meat plants turned into a hotspot between late April and early May. However, the Trump administration invoked the order for continuing the processing at meat plants to protect the country’s food supply.
In all, the virus has taken a toll over the meat plants. While trade union advice of taking strict precautions, health experts suggest that working in a cold, damp (factory) environment provides the perfect condition to the virus to linger on and spread.