A new report reveals the severity of COVID-19 spreading beyond meatpacking plants to food processing facilities across the US.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) outlines this new reality of how the fast-spreading virus has infected 1,200 food processing workers at 60 plants from mid-March to early June.
To compile these statics, EWG reviewed news articles of outbreaks and noticed many of the infections were seen at Kraft Heinz, Birds Eye, Conagra, and the Campbell Soup Company's Pepperidge Farm, as well as those of smaller plants, like Fairmont Foods and Ruiz Foods.
Food Processing Plants With the Most Reported COVID-19 Cases
Bloomberg elaborated on EWG's findings and said: "These are the first national numbers of their kind. The advocacy group compiled its figures using local media reports because there are no federal agencies reporting the data. The true total is almost certainly higher."
Bakers, dairy workers, fruit and vegetable packers, many of whom are deemed "essential" have worked through the pandemic, sometimes laboring in tight quarters.
"At our workplace, we were not ready for this virus. We didn't talk about it. We didn't know about it," Paula Zambrano,61, who packs fruit at Borton & Sons in Yakima, Washington. She was so concerned back in April of an outbreak at her plant that she stayed home for three weeks. Low on money, she returned to work to support her family.
"People are infected, and they come to work. They keep quiet about it," Zambrano said. "We live from our work. We are surviving from our wages. If we have children, how will we feed them?"
In a piece titled ""Cold, Damp & Crowded" – How America's Meat Plants Are Breeding Grounds For Covid" -- we described how meat processing plants had become a breeding ground for the virus -- and with EWG's report this week, similar conditions have been seen across many other types of food processing plants.
EWG estimates at least 1.8 million Americans work in food processing plants. Many of the workers are low-income and minority, their labor in tight workspaces make them susceptible to infection.
America's food suppliers have seen some of the worst outbreaks of the virus. Dozens of folks at meatpacking plants across the country have died with thousands infected. The ongoing human tragedy at meat and food processing plants expose the vulnerability of the food supply chain.
To solve this issue, we noted how meat processing plants should "unleash a new wave of automation across plants to ease labor and health woes."
With a health crisis still not abating at many plants -- another problem has developed, that is, food shortages and skyrocketing food inflation.
The latest food at home index increased 4.8% over the last 12 months, with all six major grocery store food group indexes rising over that span.
The index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs rose 10% over the last year, its most significant 12-month increase since the period ending May 2004.
A second coronavirus wave could spell disaster for America's food supply chain. At the moment, the stock market is selling off, with investors nervous that a reemergence of the virus is ahead.