The meatpacking industry is a vital economic force, employing nearly 200,000 people in direct meat processing jobs in 2019.
Yet the very nature of the work makes meatpacking plants a dangerous work environment. Not only does the job require the use of knives, saws, and operating industrial meat grinders as well as other heavy machinery, the high productivity needed to make a plant profitable can create unhealthy work conditions.
The industry has typically concerned itself with harmful bacteria growth within the plant including salmonella, and E. coli. Which in the past has led to expensive product recalls and damage claims.
However, in recent months, beef, poultry, and pork processing plants across the country have emerged as hot spots for COVID-19, the deadly respiratory illness that can also cause heart, kidney, and brain damage.
In recent weeks dozens of plants have been forced to halt operations amid skyrocketing numbers of cases and fatalities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates some 5,000 plant workers in 19 states had tested positive for the virus.
The problem is widespread across the globe. There are reports of COVID-19 outbreaks within meat processing plants in Brazil, Canada, Australia, Ireland, and Spain.
In April, President Donald Trump issued an order classifying meat processors as critical infrastructure. This prompted managers to call back their workforce to the production line and leaving them wondering how to make working conditions safer.
There are several explanations as to why the industry is so prone to COVID-19 infections, including:
- The proximity between workers. There could be up to 1000 workers per shift working shoulder to shoulder
- The inherent physical exertion of the job, which makes people breathe harder
- The cold temperatures and aggressive ventilation system within the processing plant to prevent the meat from spoiling
The CDC issued a recommendation for processing plants to slow down their production line to reduce the number of workers needed per shift. Additionally, many meatpacking plants are now providing face masks to employees and made their use mandatory.
Although these measures are sure to help lower the rate at which the virus is spreading, how can plant managers ensure their working environments are safe for staff and the general public, as many consumers are now worried about whether the products are safe for consumption.
The only way to conclusively prove there is a low count of bacterial growth on surfaces is to periodically conduct surrogate bacterial and air sampling tests within the processing plants. Additionally, specialized molecular testing for COVID-19 is now available.
Allometrics Testing Capabilities
In recent months in response to the public health crisis our country is facing, Allometrics has increased its testing capabilities to include surrogate bacterial and molecular testing for COVID-19.
Surrogate Bacterial and Air Sampling Test
Allometrics has joined forces with Aerobiology Laboratory to provide specialized testing of surrogate bacterial and air sampling.
The test uses wipe samples to determine the bacterial count on any surface listing and identifying the presence of different bacteria.
The test is beneficial in evaluating the effectiveness of the cleaning and disinfecting protocols within the processing plant.
Molecular Testing for COVID-19
A test to identify the presence of SARS CoV-2, the virus responsible for the COVID-19 disease, has recently been introduced.
Allometrics has trained technicians who can swab high traffic areas within the plant to determine if the virus is living on any of the surfaces.
Both the surrogate bacterial and molecular testing for COVID-19 tests have a short turnaround making them ideal for managers to implement additional safety protocols if needed.
Temperature and Humidity Mapping
Allometrics also excels in the field of temperature and humidity mapping, which can be of great benefit to meatpacking plants to ensure the stability of their refrigeration rooms, and thus minimize foodborne bacterial and illnesses.
Call to speak to an Allometrics technician today and learn how we can help make your processing plant safer.