Meat industry: Government deaf to priority vaccine plea

By Gwen Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

The food supply chian could be at risk if the meat industry is denied priority access to the COVID vaccine
The food supply chian could be at risk if the meat industry is denied priority access to the COVID vaccine

Related tags: coronavirus, Meat & Seafood

The UK could face food shortages if key workers in the meat industry are not given priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the British Meat Processor Association (BMPA).

The BMPA has again called on the Government​ to put frontline workers in meat factories at the top of the list to receive the vaccine. However, it claims to have had zero feedback in response.

The BMPA warned that the level of absence already reported in other areas of the food and drink supply chain would make it impossible for meat production plants to continue operations. Plants would be forced to close entirely and a sizeable chunk of food supply would disappear from supermarket shelves.

Close to the edge

Meat processors already reported absences of eight to 10%, with some BMPA now members teetering dangerously close to 15% absences – a level the BMPA claimed where issues start to truly develop.

As a result, many meat plants – already stretched thin due to extra precautions, such as social distancing in and around the factory – have been forced to operate extra weekend days to keep up.

As Nick Allen, chief executive at the BMPA, explained: “As the new coronavirus variant takes hold across the whole of the UK, we are hearing widespread reports of rapidly rising absences in the food supply chain. In some cases, notably in the supermarket sector, companies are seeing a tripling of staff having to take time off work through illness or enforced self-isolation.”

Threat still remains

The BMPA said it had yet to report any of its members reaching such a high level of absence in their plants. This was largely due, Allen claimed, to the high level of investment in extra health and safety  measures ­– the threat of the new coronavirus variant still remained.

“We are therefore calling on Government to include meat factory workers in the initial roll-out of vaccinations,”​ Allen added. “This would provide much needed protection and comfort to this at-risk group and the communities in which they live as well as ensuring that the critical food supply chain continues to run smoothly.”

Meanwhile, food manufacturers have been again overlooked for vital Government aid to help cope with the pressures of the pandemic,​ according to the head of the British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF).

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