How ready is the processing industry for a second wave of COVID-19?

It appears that Eastern Canada is headed for a second wave of COVID-19, and if Western Canada isn’t careful, it could face one too. The pandemic has had a large impact on the meat processing industry, and in order to avoid a second wave and the subsequent potential disruption to the meat supply chain, industry can learn some lessons from what happened this past spring.

“I think there’s a number of lessons that were learned, certainly physical distancing was critical, the introduction of PPE (personal protective equipment) was very important, but also working collectively with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, in real-time, and in public health, so all of the lessons that were learned, and all the measures that were put in place, those have all been maintained,” says Chris White, president of the Canadian Meat Council.

Keeping employees safe not only inside of the plant with those additional protective measures, but also outside of the plant, has been a concern. White thinks that public health agencies have done a terrific job of educating the public about how community spread happens, and the only way that community spread can be prevented, is to adhere to the guidelines set out by public health agencies across Canada.

A meat packing plant may be the safest place to work because of the rigorous testing, sanitizing, personal protective equipment use such as visors and masks, entering one door and exiting another, and other safety measures that were either in place before the pandemic, or set in place at the onset.

The meat industry is highly competitive; but behind the scenes, and because of companies being multi-national, best practices and lessons across borders have been shared. Regional jurisdiction from province to province doesn’t complicate the industry being on the same page, in White’s opinion, and he says plants are informed by public health officers and what the CFIA is advising.

“Everybody wants to have a line of sight into what each other is doing,” White says of the communications between senior ag officials in the CFIA and having a sufficient amount of inspectors working, to make sure product flow is adequate.  In terms of a government ask from the Canadian Meat Council, it’s to keep the communication going between industry and the federal level officials.

Hear the full conversation between White and RealAgriculture’s Shaun Haney below: 

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