It is vital that a coordinated approach is taken to the Covid-19 issues in meat processing plants, according to the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA).

In a statement today, Friday, May 15, ICMSA president Pat McCormack said that, as an essential service delivering high-quality food on a daily basis to consumers, priority testing and other supports should be made available to meat processing facilities to address any issues arising.

This would also ensure the health of the workforce, he added.

The president said that right throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the wider Irish food sector has continued delivering high-quality food from the farmer through the workers in processing plants and on to the retailer.

McCormack said that it was imperative that the Health Service Executive (HSE) and other state agencies fully support the sector to manage its way through the current challenges.

Cluster concerns voiced in Dáil

This follows concerns raised in the Dáil yesterday evening regarding the Covid-19 clusters present in some meat plants around the country.

Independent TD Denis Naughten warned: “There are now clusters of infection surrounding meat plants where the levels of infection within the plants themselves is up to one third or in some instances half of the workforce.”

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said:

“Without calling for the shutting down of the sector, it seems very surprising that the blanket testing of a facility is followed by no interruption of work until the results are returned.

Would it not be reasonable to halt production for a deep clean and putting in place of new control measures while waiting for the results?

“Simply sending workers back to work and, indeed, not testing their families does not make sense, particularly given the minister’s assurance that testing capacity is not an issue,” Martin said.