A team of public health experts led by Dr. David Nabarro, co-director of the Institute for Global Health Innovation, Imperial College London and Strategic Director 4SD Switzerland, has produced a working paper for the IUF on the factors which make cold food processing facilities high risk environments for the spread of COVID-19.

The paper recommends essential and practical steps employers and regulatory agencies should take to mitigate against the spread of the disease in meat and other cold food processing environments.
Key findings and recommendations include:

• The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the profound societal inequality within the meat industry.
• Employment conditions which incentivize reporting systems and provide financial support to workers when sick or isolating are critical factors in the successful fight against the disease.
• Local health authorities, businesses and trade unions must work together. Public health and occupational health and safety are interconnected.
• Temperature, humidity and poor ventilation all play a role in the spread of the disease.
• Crowded work places, the speed of production, and aerosols combining with dust, feathers and animal waste, are all factors which encourage transmission of the coronavirus.
• The implementation, in conjunction with workplace health and safety representatives, of standard OSH processes including risk assessments can have a major impact in reducing the spread of infection.

Welcoming the report, IUF Assistant General Secretary James Ritchie said: “A healthy and safe workplace established through the elimination and control of hazards, thorough testing and contact tracing systems enacted by appropriately funded public health authorities, and adequate paid sick leave for workers who are sick or must isolate, are the essential components of a strategy to keep essential food workers safe and to fight the spread of the coronavirus. There is no excuse to delay implementation.”

COVID in cold environments: risks in meat processing plants (hyperlink) in English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish.

A healthy and safe workplace established through the elimination and control of hazards, thorough testing and contact tracing systems enacted by appropriately funded public health authorities, and adequate paid sick leave for workers who are sick or must isolate, are the essential components of a strategy to keep essential food workers safe and to fight the spread of the coronavirus. There is no excuse to delay implementation
James Ritchie, IUF Assistant General Secretary
Published: 26/11/2020