January 6, 2021

Foster Farms faces fresh scrutiny following latest COVID-19 death of facility worker


Foster Farms has been placed under fresh scrutiny following a third COVID-19 death of another worker at its California, US food processing facility.


This came just days after a court ordered the facility to provide face masks to employees and follow a number of other disease prevention measures. Three workers at Foster Farms' Cherry Avenue plant in Fresno and nine at its Livingston plant in Merced County have already died from COVID-19.


Foster Farms said it implemented a "comprehensive testing program across all of its California facilities" in mid-August, starting with its primary facility in Livingston.


The company added that tests conducted since then have shown "less than 1%" positive COVID-19 results among staff, and it claims to be "closely following" guidance for food production facilities from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)," and taking all necessary steps to ensure our employees' protection and safety."


But the death of the third employee from the Fresno facility has brought new accusations that the company is putting production before safety.


Deep Singh, director of the Jakara Movement, a Central Valley family advocacy organisation, told the Los Angeles Times that Foster Farms had shown a "callous lack of concern and protections that prioritise worker safety and their families."


Singh told the newspaper that family members believe the man, who died over after three weeks in intensive care, contracted COVID-19 while working at the plant.


The Los Angeles Times said that, despite the overall 1% positivity rate noted on Foster Farms website, at least 193 people from the Fresno plant had tested positive for COVID-19 in recent weeks, amounting to about 20% of the staff at the facility.


Just before Christmas, a Merced County court said Foster Farms' Livingston chicken processing plant, where the larger outbreak struck over the summer, must provide its workers with masks and follow other anti-COVID-19 health orders.


A judge granted a temporary restraining order sought by a labor union against Foster Farms.


Foster Farms said in response that it was already following all safety rules and repeatedly testing employees for the coronavirus, which has caused serious outbreaks at meatpacking plants nationwide.


However, it declined to provide any details to the Los Angeles Times of the latest COVID-19 fatality at its Fresno plant, but said it was "saddened by the death."


- CBS News