Food Safety Magazine

News | April 24, 2020

CDC Issues Long List of Recommendations to Smithfield Foods Plant Plagued by COVID-19 Infections

By Staff

CDC Issues Long List of Recommendations to Smithfield Foods Plant Plagued by COVID-19 Infections

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a 15-page report outlining recommendations for a Smithfield Foods pork processing plant that’s been considered a hotspot for COVID-19 infections. The company has nearly 800 infected workers, and more than 200 local Sioux Falls, SD cases believed to have been caused by close contact with a Smithfield employee.

​CDC’s visit stemmed from a request issued by the South Dakota Department of Health. Sioux Falls health officials were seeking assistance in developing strategies to help reduce COVID-19 infections among workers at Smithfield’s local pork processing plant.

CDC’s tour, known as an Epi Aid, was conducted on April 14th--after the plant had already halted operations 3 days earlier. The team included veterinary epidemiologists, an epidemic intelligence service officer, an industrial hygienist, and a laboratory leadership service officer. They were tasked with evaluating existing health and safety controls at the Sioux Falls plant, then providing recommendations for improvement. 

Observations made by CDC’s team resulted in roughly 10 pages of recommendations covering a long list of areas—social distancing, screening, sick leave, hand hygiene, sanitation, training, communication, personal protective equipment, and more.

CDC also requested additional information centered around key demographics and workstation information from the Smithfield plant based on two inconclusive observations:

  • Our team was unable to identify important demographic information about this workforce, limiting our ability to understand the diversity of the employees. However, plant management reported that there were approximately 40 different languages spoken by employees in the plant and that English, Spanish, Kunama, Swahili, Nepali, Tigrinya, Amharic, French, Oromo, and Vietnamese are the top 10 languages.
  • We were also unable to obtain information about the workstations of confirmed positive cases. This type of information could provide a better understanding of what workplace factors may have contributed to the spread of COVID-19 among employees.

CDC says the recommendations are steps that Smithfield Foods may want to consider implementing to address the conditions identified at the plant. The recommendations are discretionary and not required or mandated by CDC.

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