Over the past two weeks, Hormel Foods has announced several “precautionary facilities closures” including two Jenni-O Turkey Store plants in Minnesota, Alma Foods in Kansas, and Don Miguel Foods in Dallas, Texas (a wholly-owned subsidiary of MegaMex Foods – a joint venture between Herdez Del Fuerte and Hormel Foods – which produces Mexican prepared foods).
Local health departments tested over 800 Rochelle Foods employees, and 123 positive cases of COVID-19 were identified throughout the Northern Illinois Rockford region with a 14% positivity test rate, according to a press release issued over the weekend. Local health departments stated that they have conducted contact tracing and isolated all positive cases of COVID-19.
Rochelle Foods said that it “completed testing of its team members last week with the vast majority of them testing negative. Of those who tested positive, numerous people had no noticeable symptoms.”
Bill Rice, Rochelle Foods plant manager, commented: "As these national health experts have told us, we understand that with more testing, we will see more positives.
"We are focused on the health and safety of our team members and these test results will help us ensure people understand their current status. In some cases, it is possible that there are individuals who have COVID-19 and are asymptomatic and others who may not have realized they had symptoms.”
According to Rochelle Foods, during the pause in operations, additional enhanced safety procedures – “that exceed CDC and OSHA guidelines” – were implemented including deep cleaning of high-touch areas, reconfiguration of common areas and workstations, revised shift scheduling, new guidelines on carpooling and more extensive social distancing measures.
Other safety measures include temperature screening for all who enter the plant, masks and personal protective equipment, social distancing enhancements and continued education on COVID-19.
“Rochelle Foods, and our parent company, Hormel Foods, have a tremendous relationship with our regulatory partners at the local, state and federal level, including the USDA and FDA. As a global company, we understand the importance of ensuring people and food safety," said Richard Carlson, vice president of quality assurance at Hormel Foods.
As tensions – and lawsuits – mount in the meat industry as plants balance the need to protect workers with pressure to maintain the nation’s food supplies, food trade associations have urged Congress to move to protect essential businesses from ‘unfounded’ COVID-19-related litigation. Read more HERE