Confirmed case of COVID-19 shuts down beef plant north of Calgary
Products are safe as COVID-19 is not a food-borne illness, Alberta's chief medical officer of health says
A beef processing plant located north of Calgary has been shut down due to a confirmed case of COVID-19, health officials confirmed Friday.
Harmony Beef, a family-owned plant, was informed on Thursday that a worker who had not been on the job for a number of days had tested positive, according to spokesperson Crosbie Cotton.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said staff with the agency would not provide slaughter inspection services on Friday while health risk assessments were being conducted.
"[This will] allow the plant to initiate a number of follow-up activities. A date for the resumption of slaughter operations has not yet been determined," the statement reads.
Health officials said a few close contacts of the employee have been identified and have been told to stay home.
However, despite the confirmed case, health officials stressed there should be no concerns with the food originating from Harmony Beef.
"[COVID-19] is not a food-borne illness, so this would not be considered to be a concern with respect to the food that comes out of that plant," said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health during Friday's daily news conference. "This wouldn't be considered to be a significant risk to the public and that small number of close contacts were going to be followed up with today."
Premier Jason Kenney said it seems as though protocols have been followed and the plant is safe to open, but said he has heard that CFIA inspectors won't return to work.
"So, [Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen] is working with his officials to see if we can instead substitute Alberta inspectors into that facility, or any other facilities," Kenney said. "Because we also have concerns about a shortage of CFIA inspectors at some of the other meat packing plants in Alberta."
The confirmed number of cases of COVID-19 in Alberta reached 542 on Friday.
With files from Reuters