OPINION: Stay Healthy and Stay Safe
EDITOR’S LETTER (September 2020 issue of Food and Beverage Magazine)
The need for food to continue to be processed, is running into the need for companies to keep their employees safe. While most of the time, the two needs co-exist without issue. A number of food processing plants in Canada have had outbreaks of the COVID-19 virus.
The most recent example is a Calgary poultry plant operated by Sofina Foods/Lilydale, which operates 16 Canadian plants, has seen nearly 20 employees test positive for the virus. The plant did not close, but others have done just that since the pandemic began. Another Alberta plant, in High River, operated by Cargill, closed for two weeks earlier this year as almost 1,000 of its workers tested positive.
A Calgary Cargill plant also had an outbreak. While an Olymel plant in Quebec had to shut down its plant, as did Harmony Foods in Calgary, while a JBS Food Canada plant in Alberta had to go down to one shift.
For many food processing plants, following strict health and safety procedures is a given, as the safety of the food supply chain is of utmost importance. As we have seen in the past what happens when those safety procedures are not followed and outbreaks of food bourne illness happened. However, COVID-19 is a totally different problem, and while companies are doing what they can to prevent outbreaks of the virus, as mentioned above, they are happening.
Back in May, the Canadian government announced that they would be providing food processing companies with funds that they can use to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) for their employees, as well as other items that are needed for this ‘new normal’ of life during a pandemic. Those funds are now beginning to be distributed to various plants across Canada. Hopefully, this will help to reduce the number of COVID-19 outbreaks that are happening at Canadian food processing plants.
While much attention is rightly given to front line workers, such as nurses, doctors, first responders, and so on, those in the food industry deserve credit for continuing to help to keep the Canadian food supply chain going, with the risk of COVID-19 ever present. To them, I would just like to say a big thank you. MRO