Coronavirus strikes Evesham Vale Growers tomato packing site

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Hundreds of workers are being tested for coronavirus at Evesham Vale Growers Ltd
Hundreds of workers are being tested for coronavirus at Evesham Vale Growers Ltd

Related tags coronavirus Fresh produce

Hundreds of employees at a tomato packing site in Worcestershire supplying retailers including Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and the Co-op are being tested for COVID-19, after 14 members of staff tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

An estimated 340 workers employed at Evesham Vale Growers Ltd are to be tested for the virus following an outbreak at the site in Blackminster, near Evesham. All staff at the site have been advised to self-isolate when not in work.

Evesham Vale packs 300 tonnes of tomatoes at Blackminster. It also grows and supplies spring onions, asparagus, fennel and courgettes from its nearby Springhill Farm site.

Worcestershire County Council, together with Public Health England (PHE) are working closely with the business to help stem the spread of the virus and support the health and wellbeing of the workforce.

Dr Adrian Phillips, consultant in Communicable Disease Control with PHE Midlands, commented: “We still expect to see cases in the community and within settings where people are closer together, such as workplaces, which is why the Test and Trace system is important, to help us pick up on any potential problems and swiftly to take remedial action to reduce spread.”

Infection control measures

To this end, Evesham Vale has put in place a range of infection control measures to try to reduce the risk of staff being exposed to COVID-19.

This included supporting testing on site, promoting social distancing in the indoor packaging area and providing personal protective equipment for staff where applicable. The company is also encouraging regular handwashing for at least 20 seconds and promoting the use of face coverings in closed areas.

“As we have seen a global trend of large food producers being subject to outbreaks, as a precautionary measure, the decision was made to test the entire workforce,”​ Phillips added.

Worcestershire Council director for public health Dr Kathryn Cobain said its priority was to protect the health and wellbeing of the community through the continued support of the site management and their workers.

Food produced unaffected

“The food produced on the site is unaffected by the outbreak and remains safe to eat,”​ she continued. “Anyone who has a fever, persistent dry cough, or loss or change in their sense of taste or smell should call 119 or go online to arrange a test.”

A number of food and drink firms have been hit clusters of coronavirus in their factories over the past month.

Employees at Walker’s Leicester factory tested positive for COID-19 at the beginning of July,​ while 2 Sisters food Group confirmed 200 cases of the virus at its site in Llangefni, Wales.

Meanwhile, the Welsh meat sector faces “worrying challenges”​ and “a menacing maelstrom of uncertainty​ amid further disruption from coronavirus and an EU trade deadlock, Hybu

Related topics Fresh produce Operations COVID-19

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