July 27, 2020
Smithfield Foods: Workers unable to practice social distancing in all areas
United States based Smithfield Foods, the biggest pork processor in the world said it cannot maintain social distancing for its workers in all areas of is plants, responding to accusations by US senators, Reuters reported.
Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, Democratic Senators said last month that major US meatpackers like Smithfield, Tyson Foods, Cargill and JBS USA are putting their workers' safety at risk to maintain domestic meat production.
The senators enquired the companies regarding the increased export of meat to China, while domestic production was disrupted due to reported COVID-19 outbreaks at meat plants.
Major US meatpackers have been called to protect their workers after 16,000 meat plant workers from 23 states were found to be COVID-19 positive. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data showed 86 workers have died due to COVID-19 related complications.
Smithfield Foods, owned by China's WH Group said in a statement that it has built physical barriers between workers, while also introducing other measures to protect its workers where social distancing is impossible.
The company did not agree to slowing processing line speeds in order to expand the space between workers as slowdowns will cause a livestock backlog at farms. Smithfield said this may result in increased meat prices and livestock euthanizations.
Competitor Tyson Foods told US Senators that they have reduced workers on the production floor, erected barriers and implemented mandatory face shield wearing in places where social distancing cannot be carried out.
Democratic SenatorsElizabeth Warren and Cory Booker have called for new legislations to protect meat plant workers.
Smithfield Foods, Tyson Foods and JBS USA did not report the number of meat they have exported. JBS USA, a unit under JBS Brazil said less 10% of its US pork is exported to China. Cargill said it did not export US beef or Turkey to China in 2020 to date.