Washington, DC – Over the weekend, Smithfield Foods announced that it will be closing its Sioux Falls, South Dakota pork processing facility indefinitely in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Sioux Falls plant produced four to five percent of pork production in the U.S., but its focus was on export markets.
In response, Tony Corbo, Sr. Government Affairs Representative for Food & Water Watch issued the following statement:
“Of course high numbers of meat plant workers are starting to test positive for COVID-19. USDA and food production companies like Smithfield have steadfastly refused to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Their workers – the people who are critical to our food supply chain – have been left unprotected as frontline responders.
Social distancing is impossible in meatpacking plants. The plants are incubators for spreading COVID-19 and neither the plant owners nor the USDA has provided adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers and inspectors to use while on the job. Workers and inspectors at these plants must be immediately tested for COVID-19 and then immediately provided PPE and hazardous duty pay. We must treat these people who are critical to ensuring the safety of our food supply like the frontline workers that they are.
Smithfield’s failure to take immediate and appropriate action in response to the COVID-19 outbreak in its Sioux Falls facility was outrageous and demonstrates its ongoing commitment not to the health and safety of its employees or the security of our food supply but rather to its own bottom line.
Attempts by USDA and industry to evade pandemic-response requirements will mean temporary disruptions to meat and poultry supplies in this country. None of the responsible parties seemed to plan at all for the inevitable possibility of such a pandemic and then dragged their feet to respond which put the safety of both workers and plant inspectors at risk. Meat processing facilities must immediately provide workers with PPE and hazardous duty pay to ensure their safety and the safety of our food supply.”