Conestoga Meats plans week-long closure after 7 cases of COVID-19

Conestoga Meats is shutting down production for a week at its Breslau pork processing plant after seven workers tested positive for COVID-19, a change in direction from earlier in the week when the company said it would stay open.

The plant, one of Ontario’s largest pork producers, will start the week-long shutdown on Monday, according to the company.

“Employees have expressed concerns regarding COVID-19 positive cases at the plant,” president Arnold Drung said in a statement. “The health, safety and wellbeing of Conestoga Meats employees is our priority.”

In the statement, Drung says limited staffing and operations will be maintained. He adds that employees who won’t be working will be compensated for their time off.

Drung has said that Waterloo Region Public Health told the company about the cases on Monday and said Conestoga Meats should expect more cases because of the size of its workforce and the increase in regional testing.

Public health investigates

The region’s acting medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang says public health is in the process of investigating the situation at Conestoga Meats.

“We have received concerns and calls — anonymous ones mostly,” Wang said. “So we are following up, working with the Ministry of Labour in addition to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which oversees the plant.”

The CFIA website says it doesn’t anticipate any COVID-19 related food recalls. “There have been no reported cases of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19,” the CFIA’s website adds.

Wang says even though the company has been following recommended measures from public health and the CFIA, the outbreak among workers at the plant is important to examine.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development has already launched an investigation into the company after receiving two complaints related to COVID-19 on Wednesday, including concerns about physical distancing procedures. 

Conestoga Meats was also investigated by the labour ministry for another complaint on March 24 regarding a lack of personal protective equipment. But the ministry says that investigation is complete and no orders were issued.

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