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April 30, 2020

Cargill to reopen Covid-19-hit meat plant in Alberta, Canada

US-based agri-food business Cargill is to reopen a meat plant in Canada that was closed earlier this month due to Covid-19 cases.

By Dean Best

Cargill is to reopen a meat plant in the Canadian state of Alberta next week that was closed down temporarily amid reports hundreds of workers had contracted coronavirus.

The US-based agri-food business said the High River facility will resume operations on Monday, 4 May, after being idle for 14 days, following consultations with Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Occupational, Health and Safety (OHS).

Cargill reduced shifts at the High River beef factory on 13 April after an undisclosed number of employees tested positive for Covid-19. It later suspended operations at the site amid media reports that suggested more than 300 workers had been infected.

The business has never publicly confirmed the exact number of infections, although it had acknowledged early in April that there were positives cases at the plant.

In a statement announcing the reopening, Cargill said: “All employees who are eligible to return to work in our harvest department are asked to report to work. In keeping with our extensive focus on safety, we want to emphasise that employees are required to have had no symptoms of illness and not had contact with anyone with the Covid-19 virus for 14 days. 

“Further, all social distancing and infection prevention and control measures, including employee screening, masking and changes to locker room and lunch room workflows, are continuing in the facility.”

Jon Nash, the head of Cargill’s North America protein division, added: “We have been working in lockstep with AHS since early March to lead on the implementation of proactive safety measures within the facility. Over the last 14 days, we have taken several additional actions to manage Covid-19 and make our facility an even safer place for our employees to work. 

“We’ve been in regular communication with the union, AHS and OHS and have welcomed them for site visits which served to validate the enhanced safety measures in our facility. 

“We know being an essential worker is challenging and we thank our team for working so hard to deliver food for local families, access to markets for ranchers and products for our customers’ shelves.”

Cargill was also forced to close one of its plants in the US in April because of coronavirus infections. The facility, in the city of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, was shut until further notice on 7 April.

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