US food group Conagra Brands has temporarily halted production at a frozen meals plant after an outbreak of the Covid-19 virus among employees.

The facility at Marshall, Missouri, will shut down until next Monday (27 April) after around 42 staff there, out of a workforce of around 700, were diagnosed with the virus.

In a statement sent to just-food, Conagra said: “The health and safety of our employees is our top priority. In our Marshall facility, we have been using social-distancing techniques, screening temperatures and increased sanitisation in the facility to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“Unfortunately, approximately 42 employees have been diagnosed with Covid-19 so we made the decision to suspend operations at the facility until April 27. Going forward, we will continue to quarantine any employees who are ill or who show symptoms.”

The company, which owns brands such as Duncan Hines, Marie Callender’s and Reddi-wip, said that when the facility reopens it will “continue to use our rigorous plant maintenance, sanitation processes, and other preventative measures to maintain a safe work environment”.

It said it will pay employees while the facility is temporarily closed and will continue to pay workers who need to be away from work due to Covid-19.

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The company told just-food it has also reduced operations at a bakery in Indianapolis and a vegetable facility in Darien, Wisconsin.

Chicago-based Conagra Brands is the second-largest frozen food company in the US.