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Alberta issues a response plan to protect workers in food processing plants

21 April 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, the provincial and federal governments, beef industry and worker representatives have developed a plan to respond to confirmed cases of coronavirus in food processing plants.

The goal of the response plan is to protect workers while ensuring limited impact to Alberta’s essential food supply during the pandemic. Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Devin Dreeshen said:

“Food production is an essential service. The employees in Alberta’s food processing industry are still hard at work every day, and thanks to them our food supply chain is strong. This new plan we’ve developed will keep them safe – while they keep us fed during the pandemic.”

Background information

The government stresses that COVID-19 isn’t a foodborne illness. However, essential food industry workers are still susceptible to COVID-19. There are a growing number of confirmed coronavirus cases at food processing plants as the total number of cases throughout Canada also grows.

In Alberta, the first confirmed case occurred at a beef plant north of Calgary. The facility where the case was confirmed was shut down, halting production. Agriculture and Forestry immediately began working with the plant management, Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the Ministry of Labour to resolve the issue. Specific, effective mitigation measures were put in place based on the advice of health and safety experts.

Provincial developments

Since this first case, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry has continued to work with its partners, AHS and the CFIA to protect the health and safety of workers while ensuring a stable food supply in the province.

Together, the groups have established an intergovernmental business resumption protocol for provincially or federally licensed food processing facilities in Alberta. This protocol formalises the cooperative approach used among the organisations to streamline the process while outlining the roles and responsibilities of AF, AHS and CFIA as we work to keep the food supply strong.

In Alberta, facilities already have very strict sanitation protocols and practices. In response to COVID-19, food processors must:

  • Implement measures to prevent the spread of infection, including all recommended mitigation and cleaning requirements and adjustments to their work schedules
  • Continue to implement enhancements to ensure staff and products are safe as they move products into the supply chain

Commenting on the response, federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food, Marie-Claude Bibeau, said:

“By working together, the federal and provincial governments are better equipped to respond to the challenge of COVID-19 for this important sector and Canada’s food security. This protocol complements the guidance that the CFIA has provided to federally registered meat establishments to implement measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure for inspectors and workers.”

The full coronavirus response plan can be read here.


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