Two cases of COVID-19 at separate meat processing plants operated by Sofina Foods

Sofina Foods plants in Burlington and Mississauga have each had an employee test positive.

Sofina Foods plants in Burlington and Mississauga have each had an employee test positive

Two employees at meat processing plants in Burlington and Mississauga operated by Sofina Foods have tested positive for coronavirus. (CBC)

Two employees at separate meat processing plants operated by Sofina Foods have tested positive for coronavirus, a company spokesperson told CBC News on Friday.

The affected plants are the Burlington pork processing plant and Sofina Foods Mississauga.

Daniele Dufour said the company became aware of both cases on Tuesday.

"The person [at the Burlington plant] was at work until April 28 and as soon as they started experiencing symptoms, they went home," Dufour told CBC News on Friday.

"The employee wore a mask while at the site, this is why in our own risk assessment we determined that the risk was low."

Dufour added that all employees who were in close contact with the affected workers have been asked to self-isolate at home.

Sofina Foods operates 19 meat processing plants in Canada.

On its website the company said it is closely monitoring the evolution of COVID-19 and working to prevent risks to employees and its ability to continue manufacturing.

Dufour said while the two cases happened around the same time, they are not related.

"The employee [at the Mississauga plant] was at work until Monday," Dufour said.

"That person always wears a mask as well as a helmet at work."

Workers are concerned 

While Sofina Foods knew about the cases since Tuesday, the union representing workers said it was only notified on Thursday.

Tim Deelstra, spokesperson for UFCW Local 175, said while the company has taken steps at each of its sites to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19, workers are understandably worried.

"Obviously, at this time, workers are concerned if they're going into the workplace,"  Deelstra said.

"We'll look into those concerns and follow up on a regular basis with the employer, and we're doing everything we can to address them and provide them with as much safety and security as they can get."

'Extremely proud' of workers

Meanwhile, Deelstra said the union is "extremely proud of the difficult work" that the employees are doing at this. 

"There's this narrative now that workers in meat and in retail and so on are essential [but] we've always known that," Deelstra said. 

"So, it's good to see that there's more recognition happening for those workers now and we're going to do our absolute utmost as a union to look after them at this time, to make sure that they can go home healthy."

Infected employees are doing well, company says

In a press release issued Friday afternoon, Sofina Foods said the infected employees are doing well and following the guidance of the provincial health authority.

Dufour also said that the company's COVID-19 response protocol was immediately deployed to investigate the incidents and mitigate any risks to other employees.

"In addition to the required PPE when in production areas, masks or face shields are now mandatory in production areas at these two sites," Dufour wrote in the press release.

"We have a comprehensive manual and protocols in place for such situations and the teams were prepared. This allowed us to quickly assess risks, alert proper stakeholders and identify any action needed in addition to the proactive measures already in place."

Plants are fully operational

Dufour said both plants remain fully operational, and all Sofina Foods sites have deployed a number of measures to prevent the spread of the virus. These include temperature checks, ongoing sanitation of common areas and offices, staggered breaks, physical distancing in common areas, face shields, plexiglas separations on the production line, at handwashing stations or in lunch rooms. 

In addition, the plants have redirected the flow of movement to create a single point of entry and a single exit point at each site.

"We also stopped operations overnight at the Mississauga plant to allow fogging of all welfare areas in addition to daily sanitation. Fogging is one of the most effective methods to properly disinfect harder to reach places," added Dufour.

"In the case of our Burlington plant ... Given the sanitation protocols in place at the plant, including regular fogging, we are confident that the areas where the employee went do not pose any contamination concerns."

Sofina Foods' Mississauga plant manufactures further processed chicken products and employs over 180 people. The facility in Burlington produces fresh pork and employs close to 1,000 people.