Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary, Luke Pollard, has today called for the government to launch an urgent investigation into the outbreaks of COVID-19 in meat processing plants England.
Hundreds of workers have been reported to have tested positive at processing and packing plants, contributing to coronavirus hotspots in West Yorkshire, Cambridgeshire as well as in Wales.
Luke Pollard has written to the Secretary of State for DEFRA with 4 key questions:
- Will you follow the lead of the Welsh Government and order a rapid review and risk assessment of food businesses that may be vulnerable to Covid-19?
- Will you conduct an urgent review of the guidance and protocols (including concerning distancing and the use of PPE both at the production line and on breaks) issued to food businesses in England?
- Will you ask the Food Standards Agency and Health and Safety Executive to urgently inspect working conditions in all food businesses operating within a chilled environment?
- What assessment have you made of the adequacy of statutory sick pay to enable food company key workers to afford to self isolate if they have covid-19 symptoms, or if they are informed by NHS Track and Trace that they have been in contact with someone with symptoms? Has that assessment been given to the Department for Work and Pensions?
Luke Pollard said:
“There are thousands of people working in chilled and humid workplaces like meat packing factories throughout the country. The large number of Covid-19 outbreaks should have prompted a stronger response from Government to understand why these plants are most affected and what can be done to slow the spread of the virus in food factories. That’s why I’m calling on the government to launch a proper investigation on what the causes of these outbreaks in meat processing plants.
“As attention turns to preventing a second peak, we need Ministers to learn lessons from these outbreaks and share those openly and transparently with the public so future outbreaks can be prevented. Keeping quiet will not make the problem go away.”