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Belmont Meats, a protein business owned by Canada’s Premium Brands Holdings, has seen an outbreak of Covid-19 at its factory in Toronto.

The Toronto Public Health agency said 78 cases of the virus have been confirmed at Belmont’s North York site, a district in Toronto, and two of those workers have been identified as having the B.1.1.7 strain of the virus, a variant that first appeared in the UK. 

“There is also evidence of secondary transmission of the variant in household member cases associated with an employee of the workplace,” Toronto Public Health (TPH) said. “At this time, there is no indication that any cases identified in the outbreak had recently travelled or had contact with a person who travelled recently.”

TPH said the North York plant closed temporarily on 28 January because of the outbreak.

just-food has asked Vancouver-based Premium Brands, the  food manufacturer with a presence in meats, protein snacks, sandwiches and seafood, for an update and when the facility is likely to reopen.

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Premium Brands acquired Belmont in 2016, a business that manufactures branded beef, pork and poultry products sold into retail and foodservice, and also supplies private-label customers across Canada.

Health officials in the UK have previously stated the B.1.1.7 variant of the virus is 50-70% more infectious. Emerging data has suggested the strain may be 30% more deadly than the original variant that first emerged in the country in the early part of 2020.

TPH said it began an investigation at Belmont on 26 January when it became aware of a possible outbreak at the plant, adding: “TPH has issued a letter to all cases and contacts informing them that the UK variant has been identified in cases from this outbreak and providing direction on public health management including isolation and testing.”