Three workers at the Foster Farms chicken processing plant in Kelso, Washington, have tested positive to COVID-19.
As of April 17, there were 29 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Cowlitz County, where Kelso is the county seat. While those three cases were the most recent confirmations of COVID-19 in the county, Elaine Placido, Cowlitz County director of community services, said she did not believe there was a great risk of COVID-19 spreading beyond those three people and downplayed the need to test workers there.
“Each has been staying home while sick, so it sounds like the connections to Foster Farms are a horrible coincidence. … We don’t want to set up any kind of mass testing until … something tells us that it’s actually active in the facility,” Placido told The Daily News.
The Kelso facility is the second Foster Farms plant with employees testing positive for COVID-19.
In late March, it was reported that two employees at its poultry plant in Farmerville, Louisiana, tested positive.
Despite the employee illnesses, Foster Farms says it remains committed to providing a safe supply of poultry products to consumers.
The company made the following statement on its website: “Foster Farms joins our nation as we respond to the challenge of Coronavirus (COVID-19). We recognize that we have a special responsibility to the millions of families that depend on our poultry products to meet their daily nutritional needs, and are working around the clock to restock shelves. We could not do this without the dedication and commitment of our employees, to whom we are grateful. As a family-owned company, employee health and safety has always been among our highest priorities. We are closely following the guidance of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), along with state and local health authorities, and are taking all necessary steps to ensure our employees’ protection and safety.
“The CDC has found no evidence to date that COVID-19 is transmitted either through food or food packaging. As a part of routine operations, Foster Farms has stringent production practices in place that include rigorous sanitation. Our plants are continuously sanitized and approved by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) before beginning operations each day. We have added to these practices by increasing daily sanitation and personal hygiene checks throughout our facilities, and organizing work flow to enhance social distancing. We will continue to monitor guidance from CDC and USDA, and are prepared to respond quickly.”
Foster Farms, according to the WATT PoultryUSA Top Companies rankings, is the 10th largest broiler company in the United States and the country’s 13th largest turkey company. It acquired the Farmerville facility from Pilgrim’s Pride in 2010.
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