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UK poultry meat industry taking crucial steps to protect workers from coronavirus

The UK poultry meat industry hits back at the unfair portrayal of meat processing plants, saying that the COVID-19 crisis demonstrates that no amount of preparation and vigilance can guarantee complete protection against the novel coronavirus.

24 June 2020, at 12:13pm

British Poultry Council, Chief Executive, Richard Griffiths, said: “The British poultry meat industry is working incredibly hard to protect our food heroes who have gone above and beyond to keep this country running amidst the biggest crisis of our lifetime. Our people are our most vital asset and ensuring their safety, health and well-being remains our top priority.

British poultry meat businesses are doing all they can to safeguard their employees and maintain high standards of production from farm to fork. The industry has acted responsibly and invested in the necessary infrastructure and practices to implement appropriate social distancing measures as per Government guidelines.

Where the production environment makes it impossible to observe the 2-metre distancing requirement, our businesses have adapted quickly by bringing in bespoke solutions such as enhanced PPE, mandatory face coverings, Perspex screens and managing flow of traffic through staggering shifts and breaks. This has played a vital role in ensuring the safety and well-being of our key workers.

Average staff absence across the poultry meat industry is low (less than 5 percent). This covers cases of COVID-19, those shielding, carers, and other usual absences. Poultry meat businesses have demonstrated leadership by investing in their own test and trace processes ahead of the government scheme to help identify cases as early and efficiently as possible. BPC member businesses are also working closely with health and safety authorities and unions to ensure a joined-up approach to keeping people safe and preventing the spread of the virus in these extraordinary times.

Some of the recent outbreaks of COVID-19 in meat plants clearly demonstrate that no amount of preparation and vigilance can guarantee complete protection against COVID-19. Also, it’s important to understand that every business is limited to what it can control outside the workplace. Unfair portrayal of meat processing sites as virus epicentres is unacceptable and we look forward to working closely with the Government to help eradicate these negative stereotypes and raise awareness about the steps taken by the poultry meat industry to protect our people.”

Industry needs continued access to PPE

Continued availability of Personal Protective Equipment remains a concern for our member businesses, given its surge in demand across the country. PPE has always been a requirement of poultry meat producers in order to ensure high standards from farm to fork. Access to PPE must be an integral part of the Government’s plans as it looks to prioritise access to supplies to ensure the nation’s health and well-being.