Consequences of corona contamination in slaughterhouses
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Consequences of corona contamination in slaughterhouses

  • 18 June 2020
  • Door: Saskia Stender

Daily news about corona infections in the food industry, not only in meat processors, but also in the fruit sector has been affected. Stay informed via our timeline. 

18 Juni 2020

Largest slaughterhouse of Tönnies closes after high number of corona infections

All employees of the German meat processing plant Tönnies in Rheda-Wiedenbrück, where there is a major corona outbreak, must be quarantined for 14 days. People from outside the company who have recently been on the slaughterhouse premises are also placed in isolation. This concerns 7000 people.

A test among 983 employees at the slaughterhouse showed that 657 people were infected with the coronavirus. The company itself had previously reported 128 employees who tested positive. The company also announced that it would take extra measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

By stopping production at Tönnies in Rheda-Wiedenbrück, there will be approximately 20% less meat on the German market. With a slaughtering capacity of 60,000 pigs per day, this is the largest slaughterhouse in Germany.

source: Top Agrar

17 June 2020

Van Rooi Meat expects to be running at full capacity again by the end of this week.

Van Rooi Meat in Helmond expects to be running at full capacity again at the end of this week. This is confirmed by a spokesman of the company. On 28 May, the chairman of the Brabant-Southeast Safety Region decided that the company had to close down for a number of days because the coronavirus had been detected in a substantial number of employees. After additional tests among the staff with re-discoveries of infections, the closure of the slaughterhouse was extended until Tuesday 16 June.

On Tuesday 9 June, Van Rooi Meat was allowed to start with a test on a limited scale. Because the test went well, the company was allowed to further scale up the business process in a phased and controlled way from Saturday, June 13. All employees working at Van Rooi Meat have recently been tested negative. In addition, there is a daily health check at the gate.

The company has demonstrated that it complies with all the required measures with regard to the safe working, travelling and living of its employees. Prior to the first test, everything in the company was put in order by means of special cleaning, adjustment of walking routes and health check. In the coming period there will be regular contact between the company and the Municipal Health Service and Safety Region to check whether agreements are being kept.

source: Veiligheidsregio Brabant-Zuidoost / Omroep Brabant  

10 June 2020

Inspectorate SZW started project 'Inspections slaughterhouses - corona

The Inspectorate SZW started the project 'Inspections slaughterhouses - corona' on 8 June 2020 and will inspect a number of pre-selected slaughterhouses in the coming weeks. These include cattle, pig and poultry slaughterhouses. During these inspections attention will be paid to possible labour market fraud as well as to the working conditions of the personnel. Minister Koolmees of Social Affairs and Employment reported this to the House of Representatives in response to questions from the SP.

On the basis of the Working Conditions Act, the Inspectorate SZW supervises unhealthy and unsafe situations in the workplace. This also applies to unhealthy and unsafe situations as a result of the risk of infection with the coronavirus. In addition, the Inspectorate SZW responds to complaints and signals as soon as possible. This can be done, for example, by carrying out an on-site inspection.

The Inspectorate SZW can take enforcement action in various ways, for example by imposing a formal requirement with measures to be taken that the employer concerned must carry out within a certain period of time. Failure to comply with these measures can lead to further measures, such as an administrative fine or administrative coercion to have the employer comply with its obligations after all.

In response to questions from D66, State Secretary Van Ark of Social Affairs and Employment informed the House of Representatives that the Inspectorate SZW had investigated 17 slaughterhouses until 1 June. The Inspectorate SZW did not shut down any slaughterhouses. The decisions to temporarily close some slaughterhouses were taken by the competent authority, the chairman of the safety region in question. 

Source: Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment 

8 June 2020 

Van Rooi Meat in Helmond is again limited in operation

Van Rooi Meat in Helmond, the Netherlands, partly went into operation again on Tuesday, June 9. This is confirmed by the safety region Brabant South-East. In order to prepare for a restart of the work on 16 June, it was agreed that the company - under strict measures and in continuous coordination with the Municipal Health Service and the safety region - could start with a test on a limited scale. With a test group, both in the office and in the slaughterhouse, work will again be limited under strict conditions.

In order to be able to start the test on a limited scale, strict requirements had to be met with regard to the safe working, travelling and living conditions of the employees concerned. The slaughterhouse was cleaned by a specialised company and had to draw up a protocol for a daily check on the health and welfare of employees.

The test group consists of a maximum of 300 employees. Van Rooi Meat had to close down because 17% of the employees tested positive for the coronavirus in a random sample. If the test period runs smoothly, the company is allowed to reopen fully on Wednesday 17 June.

Source: Veiligheidsregio Brabant-Zuidoost / Omroep Brabant 

5 June 2020

Share slaughterhouses out of sight; GGD does not test everywhere for corona

While the number of corona infections in slaughterhouses all over the world is causing a stir, personnel are by no means being tested everywhere. The national GGD states that it does not visit all slaughterhouses. Minister Schouten, the trade unions and the industry itself had asked for this.

As a result, part of the slaughterhouses will remain out of the picture for the time being. The GGD Hart voor Brabant, for example, stated that it had only carried out a sample at Vion in Boxtel. This means that other slaughterhouses, such as Vion in Tilburg and Vitelco in Den Bosch, were not visited. The question is whether we are going to do that. That partly depends on consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality", said a spokesperson. 

Read more on Brabants Dagblad

3 June 2020

Vion reopens the production site in Groenlo

Vion Food Group opens the production site in Groenlo on Thursday 4 June after approval from the North and East Gelderland safety region. Vion introduces a compliance protocol for the entire organisation with additional measures based on the protocol that also took effect in Boxtel on 2 June. The protocol ensures the protection of employees, so that all employees can continue to work without health complaints. Vion has introduced this compliance protocol at all production sites. The GGD monitors the agreements made.

source: Vion Food Group 

2 June 2020

Van Rooi Meat in Helmond will remain closed until 16 June.

On 2 June, the chairman of the safety region Brabant Zuidoost decided to extend the closure of the Van Rooi Meat company in Helmond by 14 days due to coronavirus infections among staff. This means that the company will remain closed until 17 June. This decision was taken in consultation with RIVM.

The average infection rate of the first sample of staff was 16% and that of the second sample 17.7%. The contamination rate of the slaughterhouse employees tested was 22.5%. This percentage is so high that it is a source of infection. To ensure that the virus does not spread any further, all Van Rooi Meat employees in Helmond will go into quarantine for 14 days from Tuesday 2 June. The employees will be banned from working, which means that they will continue to be paid and will not be allowed to work anywhere else.

Because all employees will go into quarantine, it is not necessary to do any additional tests. The responsibility for complying with the quarantine lies with the employees themselves. Their employer, Van Rooi Meat, also has a responsibility together with the employment agency. Regular inspection agencies monitor compliance.

The company takes additional measures so that employees can work safely when the company reopens. These include having a specialised company clean up and drawing up and implementing a protocol for a daily check on the health and welfare of employees. Van Rooi Meat in Helmond employs approximately 1700 people.

source: Veiligheidsregio Brabant-Zuidoost

2 June 2020

Also corona infections among personnel in the fruit sector

The Municipal Health Service Gelderland-Zuid (GGD Gelderland-Zuid) preventively tests 160 of a total of 600 employees of Fruitmasters in Geldermalsen and all 80 employees of Vogelaar-Vredehof in Enspijk for the coronavirus. Some of them are labour migrants. The employees to be tested are allowed to go to work, but they must remain in quarantine at home until it has been established that they are not infected.

Fruitmasters and Vogelaar-Vredehof

Fruitmasters and Vogelaar-Vredehof were found to be infected at the end of last week. The GGD Gelderland-Zuid conducted source and contact research. The source and contact study revealed 31 close contacts who may have been at risk and who have been tested. Of these, 13 employees were found to be infected with the coronavirus. After further investigation at the companies, the source of the infections seems clear. The infections probably took place partly in an office space at each of the 2 companies.

Depending on the test results among the 240 employees, it will be determined whether further measures are necessary. The employees involved received a personal letter on Tuesday 2 June containing instructions for home quarantine next to work.

source: GGD Gelderland

2 June 2020

Vion sharpens corona measures for location in Boxtel

On the advice of the GGD, Vion Food Group is tightening up compliance with all coronary measures at its production site in Boxtel. The GGD tested 105 employees in Boxtel, 18 of whom were found to be infected. Most of them have mild to moderate health complaints. The source and contact research of the GGD has not yet been completed. The positively tested employees worked in specific parts of the company.

The sampling and analysis of the results by the Municipal Health Service provide additional insights. The positively tested employees are mainly active in the 'cold rooms' such as the cutting room and breeding. No contamination was found in other parts of the company, such as the slaughter hall. Vion introduces a compliance protocol for the entire organisation with extra measures for specific parts of the company. The protocol must ensure that all employees can continue to work without health complaints. Vion will also introduce this compliance protocol in the other production sites. The GGD monitors the agreements made.

From Tuesday 2 June, Vion will carry out a daily large-scale cleaning and disinfection in Boxtel, aimed at reducing the chance of the presence of the COVID-19 virus. In addition to the usual cleaning and disinfection of the working area, the entire area will be disinfected daily by means of a disinfecting air treatment. Vion has agreed to share new insights with the GGD.

In addition, Vion will implement a daily health check, which includes a health and well-being check of all employees upon entering the company. Special attention is paid to the health and well-being of migrant workers. Vion has already taken extra measures in the context of corona in the area of housing and passenger transport and is expanding these further.

Employees are allowed to work with people who have been tested negative, as long as they are free of complaints for 24 hours. People who have tested positive and show symptoms remain at home in isolation until they are symptom-free for 24 hours. They are only allowed to work if at least 7 days have passed after the test result. People who tested positive and showed no symptoms stay in home isolation for 72 hours. If complaints arise during this period; then policy follows from the previous point. At a moment to be determined, the Municipal Health Service repeats a random sample among the employees of the company.

The GGD has informed Vion that if the progress of the measures and additional insights from the source and contact research give cause to do so, the continuation of the work can be reviewed. Furthermore, Vion will collaborate structurally with the GGD in the field of medical content, in the field of research and surveillance and with regard to process and quality agreements.

source: Vion Food Group

29 May 2020

Van Rooi Meat closed until Tuesday 2 June 2020

On Thursday evening (28 May 2020), the chairman of the Brabant-Zuidoost Safety Region, Mr Jorritsma, took the decision to close down the Van Rooi Meat meat processing plant in Helmond. This closure will be in effect from Friday 29 May up to and including Tuesday 2 June.

The chairman closes the company on the basis of Article 47 of the Public Health Act. The reason for the closure is the threat to public health. Last week, employees of the NVWA (National Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority) and the KDS (Animal Sector Quality Inspectorate) working at this location were tested for corona. A number of people were found to be infected. Subsequently, the GGD Brabant-Zuidoost carried out a random sample of 130 people working at the company. These test results became known on 28 May: 21 employees tested positive (16 percent).

These test results indicate that there is a risk that the company in question is or could become a source for the spread of Corona in the short term. Work can only be resumed when it is safe for employees. In addition, the NVWA and KDS have indicated that, as a precaution, their employees (supervising veterinarians and official assistants) will not be working at the company for the next few days. For them and for all other employees, work can only be resumed when it is safe to do so.

The employees who have been tested positive will be informed on Friday morning May 29th. These employees and their housemates must be quarantined for two weeks. A hotel location in the region has been made available for this purpose.

Source: Brabant-Southeast Safety Region

29 May 2020

VanDrie Group measures body temperature of slaughterhouse personnel

From Friday 29 May 2020, the body temperature will be measured on the arrival of staff and visitors at the VanDrie Group slaughter locations. Temperature measurements will be taken among production staff, office staff and visitors at the slaughter sites of Ekro, ESA, T. Boer and Ameco. If the body temperature is above 38 degrees, the person is denied access to the buildings. This measure is in addition to the measures already taken by the company to prevent corona infections.

Read more: De Kalverhouder (Dutch only)

28 May 2020

Vion Apeldoorn restarted Thursday morning

The abattoir of Vion in Apeldoorn was restarted on Thursday morning May 28th. Vion was given until Wednesday night May 27, 2020 00.00 hours by the Safety Region North and East Gelderland to comply with the requirements of the Safety Region. The meat group announced on Wednesday evening that it would comply with these requirements. Subsequently, the slaughter process was allowed to start again on Thursday morning.

27 May 2020

Vion will organize transport of personnel differently

Vion Food Group informed the chairman of the North and East Gelderland Safety Region that it was responding to his call for compliance with RIVM's 1.5-meter distance measures, including with regard to passenger transport.These measures will be communicated to all employees on the evening of 27 May. Temporary employment agencies and drivers will receive an instruction for transport use in line with the call of the Safety Regions.

After the meeting with Minister Schouten of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality on the afternoon of Wednesday 27 May 2020, a Vion team set to work on the concrete implementation of the more stringent measures submitted by the sector. From Thursday 28 May, coaches will be deployed daily to transport personnel to and from work.

Responsibility flex-offices

In spite of the responsibility of the flex-bureaus in question, Vion instructs these agencies sharply on the correct execution. Until the 1st of June, 13 people can be transported per 50-seat coach. From the 1st of June, this number will increase to 30 people per bus, in accordance with RIVM regulations. Employees are obliged to wear mouth caps during commuting in a passenger bus or coach.

Ronald Lotgerink, CEO of Vion Food Group, stated that the company assumed that employees living together in the same house would be seen as one household under corona regulations. According to the Apeldoorn police, this appears to contravene the RIVM restrictions. He understands the position of the Safety Regions and promises to respond to their call.

source: Vion Food Group

27 May 2020

Ministry also closes Vion slaughterhouse in Apeldoorn

A Vion slaughterhouse in Apeldoorn was immediately closed on Wednesday 27 May because 18 employees travelled together in vans, while it had been agreed that slaughterhouses would not allow employees to travel this way. Now that this has happened, safety can no longer be guaranteed and the location has been closed, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality reports. It is not known how long the measure will last.

Read more: NU.nl (Dutch only)

26 May 2020

Schouten: slaughterhouse must demonstrate safety itself

The slaughterhouses must take measures themselves so that employees can do their work safely. That is what Minister Schouten said after consultation with the meat sector on Tuesday 26 May 2020.

"They must demonstrate that it is safe for their employees to work." Transport and housing were also discussed in the consultations. Many employees in the slaughterhouses are migrant workers who go to work together in vans and live together.

Schouten does not want slaughterhouses to close. The slaughterhouses themselves control what happens, she says. If employees of the NVWA establish that it is not safe to work, they can report this to the inspection, which may then decide to close a slaughterhouse. The safety region can also intervene.

Read more: NOS.nl (Dutch only)

25 May 2020

Consequences of corona contamination in slaughterhouses

Slaughterhouses have been in the news before in combination with corona. Why meat processors are so vulnerable to the virus is not yet clear, but the low temperature and high humidity may play a role. The NVWA is withdrawing its veterinarians from infected farms. But what will happen if the NVWA orders all veterinarians to stop working at slaughterhouses altogether? Then all slaughterhouses will have to close down. In that case, will the Netherlands start hoarding meat en masse? And how will the butchers then continue their business? The outcome of the discussion with the slaughterhouses on Tuesday 26 May 2020 is crucial for the food supply and viability of many businesses.

Ultimatum

Minister Carola Schouten has set an ultimatum: Tuesday evening 26 May 2020 it has to be clear what the sector is going to do to prevent infections. This not only concerns working conditions, but also housing and transport of personnel to the slaughterhouses.

No inspection, no slaughter

The NVWA has decided, as a precautionary measure, to order veterinarians working at Vion in Groenlo to cease their duties. The reason being that 45 employees tested positive for corona. Because no animals may be slaughtered without the presence of an NVWA veterinarian and official assistants of KDS, the slaughter process in the slaughterhouse has been stopped. 

Ronald Lotgerink, CEO of Vion, says to be "very surprised" by the high number of corona infections in the slaughterhouse. "We took all the measures you had to take." According to Lotgerink, GGD inspections showed that the company complied with RIVM rules. Vion says that none of the infected workers showed signs of illness. Like Schouten, the company wants to carry out preventive testing on a large scale.

The trade unions, on the other hand, are not at all surprised by the suspected over-representation of corona-related cases in the meat sector. They see the infections as the logical result of a cost-efficient, but vulnerable production system built on flexible work and labour migrants.

Slaughterhouses were already vulnerable

Why meat processors are so vulnerable to the virus is not yet clear. In the United States and Germany, slaughterhouses had to close down after a large number of infections had occurred. In both countries, working and living conditions turned out to be dramatic and staff on the work floor could barely keep their distance. Last Wednesday, Germany therefore passed a law banning temporary work for meat processors as of 1 January 2021 and improving working conditions for migrant workers.

Additional measures to contain corona contamination

Vion Food Group immediately takes additional measures to contain the corona contamination within its companies. In addition, Vion calls on the GGD GHOR and the Safety Council to preventively test all employees of its meat companies several times for corona. As a result, the meat supply of our country can be continued on a permanent basis. Vion provides all available data on compliance with and supervision of its own corona protocols.

Nothing to hide

Ronald Lotgerink: "We have nothing to hide. We contribute to the food supply of the Netherlands. Our sector has been asked by the government as a 'crucial sector' to continue working during the corona crisis. Our people are fully committed to this on a daily basis and comply with the regulations of the authorities such as RIVM, GGD and NVWA. Inspections confirm that we comply with these required measures. Compliance with and supervision of our corona protocols in all our companies also demonstrate this. We will make these public. Despite this, a large proportion of our people are infected - without any health complaints. And no one knows why. Nevertheless, we have decided to take additional measures while the investigation is in progress."

NVWA: Meat is not a source of contamination

The fact that the employees process meat probably plays no role in the spread of the virus, according to spokesperson Tjitte Mastenbroek of the NVWA in a statement to NU.nl. Mastenbroek argues that food safety is not endangered by the infections in the factory. "First of all, there are no known cases of people becoming infected by food. The European Food Authority (EFSA, ed.) has already pointed this out. In addition, the virus needs a living body in order to survive and there is enough time between the moment the meat is in the factory and the moment it reaches the consumer".

To be continued.

Picture: ©Mark Agnor/Shutterstock.com

Source: © Vakblad Voedingsindustrie 2020