Coronavirus can spread over 8m at cutting floor


Carolien Kloosterman, Pig Progress 

Jul 27, 2020   


Circumstances at a cutting floor can help SARS-CoV-2 spread over distances over 8 metres. That has become clear in a case study about the first wave of Covid-19 outbreaks in May, at Germany’s largest slaughterhouse, owned by Tönnies.


The study also showed that all infections during this first wave of Covid-19 outbreaks originated with just one employee. It occurred because a slaughterhouse employee got in touch with employees of an infected plant of a different packer, Westcrown, located in Dissen. Thirdly, employee housing did not play a major role in that first wave, which occurred in late May. In mid-June a second wave followed, which caused the meatpacker to close its doors for almost a month.


Those in short were the conclusions of researchers who investigated the 1st Covid-19 outbreak at the Germany’s largest pig slaughterhouse, owned by meatpacker Tönnies, which is located in Rheda-Wiedenbrück, in North Rhine Westphalia state. The research was carried out by a joint study of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, the University Medical Center Clinic Hamburg-Eppendorf and the Leibniz Institute for Experimental Virology.


One single slaughterhouse employee


The study showed that the virus most likely spread from 1 single employee who was working on the cutting floor for beef. This employee indicated that together with a colleague, he had been in touch with employees of the sow cutting floor at Westcrown in Dissen, Lower Saxony. He did so after Covid-19 had been detected in that plant. The Tönnies employee did not demonstrate any clinical signs of the virus and the contact with Westcrown employees was not considered to be a high-risk contact, which is why the employee continued to show up at work. At 3 days after the meeting, the employee was tested and one day later a positive result followed, for both the employee as well as the colleague. Both then had to go into quarantine.


More employees test positive ...


Aerosol transfer of SARS-CoV-2 ...


Exact transmission distances vary ...


Closure of slaughterhouse of almost a month ...


more, including links



U.S. meatpackers don’t have many answers for lack of distancing


Bloomberg News

via TribLive (PA) - July 25, 2020


As part of an investigation into the spread of coronavirus at U.S. meat plants, Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker released responses from major producers that defended their operations during the pandemic.


The four biggest meatpackers — Tyson Foods Inc., JBS USA, Cargill Inc. and Smithfield Foods Inc. — pointed to measures such as staggering shifts and sanitation systems, but gave soft responses when it came to implementing social distancing in production areas of the plants where workers are often in elbow-to-elbow conditions.


The letters amount to some of the most extensive explanations to date about how the meat producers responded to the crisis.


The companies gave no indication that workers were consistently being spaced apart on production lines. Cargill said it was raising “awareness” over maintaining distance, while Tyson said it installed barriers on production lines where “social distancing is not possible.” JBS said it increased spacing in cafeterias, but didn’t cite distancing measures for production lines.


Meanwhile, Smithfield gave a more straightforward response.


“For better or worse, our plants are what they are,” Chief Executive Officer Ken Sullivan said. “Four walls, engineered design, efficient use of space, etc. Spread out? OK. Where? To say it is a challenge is an understatement.”


Thousands of America’s meat workers have fallen ill with coronavirus as infections spread rapidly through the cramped factories, and dozens have died. While companies took steps to protect employees — including by installing plexiglass barriers, distributing protective equipment and setting up hand-washing stations — experts and analysts have repeatedly warned that workers would remain vulnerable without an increase in physical distance on production lines.


The senators criticized the companies for not adequately allowing workers to keep 6 feet away from one another and for shipping pork and beef overseas to meet export orders during the outbreak.


None of the companies gave specifics on the number of cases or deaths at their plants.


“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it painfully clear that these giant meatpackers can use their power to exploit their workers for profit,” Warren said in a statement. “We also need to massively reform our broken food and farm system to give workers, farmers, and consumer real bargaining power.”


Following are highlights of the responses sent to the senators from the companies:


Smithfield ...




Cargill ...


Tyson ...