Tyson Foods has suspended operations at a pork plant in Iowa after more than “two dozen” employees contracted coronavirus.

The Arkansas-based, US meat giant said livestock destined for the plant in Columbus Junction have been diverted to other company facilities in the region. 

“Our meat and poultry plants are experiencing varying levels of production impact due to the planned implementation of additional worker safety precautions and worker absenteeism,” chief executive Noel White said in a statement yesterday (6 April). “While these are challenging times, we remain committed to protecting our people while continuing to meet the needs of our customers and consumers across America.”

New York-listed Tyson Foods added it is working with US federal agencies to secure a sufficient supply of protective equipment for workers. In the meantime, the company said it has “implemented interim protocols for temporary protective coverings, while observing food safety”.

Tyson Foods is employing social distancing measures at its plants and temperature testing, along with cleaning and sanitation practises, which it said can often require suspending individual plant operations for one day.

Before the US reported its first case of Covid-19 in late February, Tyson Foods said it had launched a “restructuring programme” that could entail as many as 500 job losses, mainly at its corporate offices in Springdale, Arkansas, and Chicago, Illinois.