The manufacturer also confirmed 35 cases of COVID-19 among the factory’s 500 staff. However, Cranswick stressed that public health officials had acknowledged the outbreak was a “community issue” and did not originate from the plant.
A spokesman for the manufacturer said the factory’s entire staff were now being tested, potentially leading to some staff having to self-isolate. This in turn hastened to decision to temporarily suspend production at the Ballymena site.
“From the outset of the pandemic, we have implemented additional measures to protect our team, including social distancing, recommended PPE for all employees and additional cleaning and hygiene across the site,” the spokesman added.
“Throughout, we have worked closely with the regulatory agencies, including the PHA [Public Health Agency], DEARA [Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural affairs] and the HSENI [Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland], which have approved the site’s action plan.”
Cranswick’s decision to temporarily close the Ballymena plant comes three months after three members of staff from its site in Wombwell, Barnsley lost their lives to COVID-19.
Those who died were working in different areas of the business and were last in the factory on 7 April 2020. The company said it was also providing support such as counselling and occupational health services for staff.
COVID-19 and the food industry
This week a number of food and drink manufacturers confirmed cases of COVID-19 at their factories.
Arla Foods has taken precautionary action to contain cases of COVID-19 at its site in Settle, Yorkshire after nine staff and contractors tested positive.
An Arla spokesman said taking early steps would help contain the spread of the disease, but expected confirmed cases in the area to rise.
Poultry processing giant 2 Sisters Food Group confirmed four cases at its factory in Coupar Angus, Scotland, prompting the decision to temporarily suspend operations at the site.
Meanwhile, fresh prepared food provider Bakkavor and biscuit giant Pladis have both confirmed fresh cases of coronavirus at their manufacturing sites over the past week.