The Alberta and federal governments, with the input and assistance of industry and worker representatives, have developed a plan to respond to confirmed cases of COVID-19 in food processing plants.
The goal of this response plan is to protect workers, while ensuring limited impact to our essential food supply during this pandemic.
It is critical to remember that COVID-19 is not a foodborne illness. But essential food industry workers are still susceptible to COVID-19, just like everyone else. Across North America, we have seen a growing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases at food processing plants as the total number of cases throughout society also grows.
In Alberta, the first confirmed case occurred at a beef plant north of Calgary. The facility where the case was confirmed was shut down, halting production. Agriculture and Forestry immediately began working with the plant management, Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the Ministry of Labour to resolve the issue. Specific, effective mitigation measures were put in place based on the advice of health and safety experts.
Since this first case, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry has continued to work with our partners, AHS and the CFIA to protect the health and safety of workers while ensuring a stable food supply in Alberta.
Together, we have established an intergovernmental business resumption protocol for provincially or federally licensed food processing facilities in Alberta. This protocol formalizes the cooperative approach used among the organizations to streamline the process while outlining the roles and responsibilities of CFIA, AHS and AF as we work to keep our food supply strong.
The principles of the protocol were applied at Cargill Beef when the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed there on April 6. We are proud of the fact that this protocol has already proven effective in advance of it being formally signed by all parties. It also complements orders issued by Alberta’s chief medical officer of health under the Public Health Act.
“Food production is an essential service. The employees in Alberta’s food processing industry are still hard at work every day, and thanks to them our food supply chain is strong. This new plan we’ve developed will help keep them safe – while they keep us fed during the pandemic.”Devin Dreeshen, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry
“By working together, the federal and provincial governments are better equipped to respond to the challenge of COVID-19 for this important sector and Canada’s food security. This protocol complements the guidance that the CFIA has provided to federally registered meat establishments to implement measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure for inspectors and workers.”Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
In Alberta, facilities already have very strict sanitation protocols and practices. In response to COVID-19, food processors must:
- implement measures to prevent the spread of infection, including all recommended mitigation and cleaning requirements and adjustments to their work schedules
- continue to implement enhancements to ensure staff and products are safe as they move products into the supply chain
Interested parties may find a copy of the plan here.