By Thomas I. Likness
EBC Edmonton Bureau
EDMONTON (Eagle News) — The shutdown of the Cargill beef processing plant in southern Alberta won’t affect the security of Canada’s food supply, said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Tuesday.
After 360 workers tested positive for COVID-19 at the plant in High River, Cargill decided to temporarily shut down the plant. One worker has died from the virus. Cargill has advised all employees to be tested.
The plant handles about 4,500 head of cattle per day and is one of two large processors in Alberta. It produces about one-third of the country’s beef.
Trudeau said he is not worried that there will be a shortage of Canadian beef in grocery stores.
“We’ve heard from Canadian beef producers and associations that the priority will be ensuring that there will be Canadian supply before they move to exporting,” said Trudeau. “Much of our beef is exported but right now the priority will be on domestic supply so we are not at this time anticipating shortages of beef.”
Trudeau said prices might go up because of reduced supply.
“We will be monitoring that very, very carefully,” he said.
Trudeau added it is important to keep workers safe, He said he is pleased to see measures being taken to accomplish that.
About 60 percent of the plant’s 2,000 workers are from the town’s Filipino community.
Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said the outbreak has lead to community transmission, infecting hundreds of other people.
“There has also been spread in the community beyond these workers with 484 total cases linked to that outbreak,” said Hinshaw. “Not all of these cases are people who work at that plant.”
“There is a dedicated team working to reduce the spread with particular attention on households where there may not be the resources or space for self-isolation to happen,” she added.
Workers in meat plants work in close proximity and cannot practice the recommended social distancing.
That plant has been temporarily shut down. All workers are being advised to be tested.
(Eagle News Service)