O’Brien Fine Foods halts production after 80 employees test positive to Covid-19

O’Brien Fine Foods has confirmed that it has suspended all processing operations at its facility in Timahoe, Co. Kildare, following the outbreak of a cluster of Covid-19 cases.

The company ceased production as of 9:00pm last night, Wednesday, August 5, O’Brien Fine Foods said in a statement today.

Commenting on the issue, the Kildare firm, which owns the Brady Family Ham label, said: “In recent days, an employee presented with Covid-19 symptoms.

“In line with our procedures, we immediately isolated the individual and initiated a test. Results received on July 30 confirmed that the person had tested positive for Covid-19 which, at that juncture, was our third confirmed case.

“We initiated engagement with the Health Service Executive [HSE] and took what we believe was the most responsible decision to test all employees which was coordinated by the HSE and a private provider to expediate testing.

Of 243 tests completed, 80 have been confirmed as positive for Covid-19. Of the 80 confirmed, the level of asymptomatic infectivity appears to be very high. We are completing testing of a further 42 employees today.

“Those who have tested positive have been advised to isolate as per the official guidance and full risk assessment and contract tracing procedures are underway.

“All close contacts of those affected are being notified, advised to self-isolate and to contact their GP.

“We continue to assist, protect and support our team whom we engage with on a daily and regular basis and we maintain active engagement with customers and suppliers. We thank them for their understanding and support,” the firm added.

O’Brien Fine Foods said that the decision to suspend all processing operations is a precautionary measure.

The firm gave a timeline of cases as they were identified:
  • May 15: One isolated case confirmed (employee believed to have been in close contact with a confirmed case outside of work);
  • May 22: One isolated case confirmed (remote employee believed to have been in close contact with a healthcare worker);
  • July 30: One case confirmed;
  • August 1: Company seeks specific public health advice from the HSE and decision taken to test all staff;
  • August 5: 80 confirmed cases.

“Following consultation with the HSE, our warehousing facility will operate at minimum staffing and capacity levels,” the company added.

“A further comprehensive deep clean of the facility is underway and a full risk assessment process has commenced in the interest of employee and public health.

“We will continue to follow public health advice and take every necessary action to comprehensively address the risk, in cooperation with the HSE and Department of Health.

Since the first cases of Covid-19 were identified in Ireland last February, we have operated with an abundance of caution and safety. A rigorous health and safety policy was implemented.

“We were also fully audited by the relevant inspectors during this time with no issues identified.

“Given this level of rigour and our comparatively low level of confirmed cases up to this point, this sudden spike is difficult to comprehend,” the company said.