Maple Leaf poultry plant shuts for ‘deep cleaning’

COVID-19 found in three workers at Brampton facility

One of two Maple Leaf Foods plants at Brampton, Ont. has gone into shutdown mode for “deep cleaning” in the wake of three cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus among its workers.

Toronto-based Maple Leaf announced Wednesday that operations at the company’s Kennedy Road poultry slaughter and packing plant in Brampton are suspended “while we complete an investigation” into the three coronavirus cases.

Meanwhile, CEO Michael McCain said in a statement, the company is now “deep-cleaning the plant including common areas and offices.”

While the company plans to complete that work “as quickly as reasonably possible,” he said, “we will not begin operating again until we are confident that it is safe to return to work.”

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The Brampton poultry plant, along with another older poultry plant in Toronto, is already scheduled to close permanently by mid- to late 2022.

That move, announced in 2018, will follow completion of a new plant at London, Ont., where the company plans to consolidate its Ontario fresh poultry processing starting next year.

Maple Leaf’s other Brampton plant — a further-processing facility for chicken strips, sausages and boxed meats on Walker Drive — underwent a $25 million expansion about seven years ago.

McCain on Wednesday also confirmed the previously-reported COVID-19 diagnosis of a “team member” from the company’s Hamilton processed-meats plant, but noted that employee “had not been present at the plant for two weeks before the diagnosis.”

The Hamilton plant — a next-to-new facility, completed in 2014 — is “fully operating” after “thorough sanitation” was completed at the site, McCain said Wednesday.

McCain emphasized that “government experts in Canada and the U.S. have made it clear that COVID-19 is not a foodborne illness and there is currently no evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission of COVID-19.”

However, he also noted “additional steps” now being taken at Maple Leaf facilities on top of the “normal, thorough daily sanitation in our plants” and employees’ standard use of personal protective equipment.

Among those, he said, are “increased, frequent sanitation of all common areas” such as break rooms, washrooms, locker rooms and cafeterias; social distancing through “increased spacing on production lines where possible;” staggered breaks and shifts; and using trailers and converted office space “to decrease the density of our people during breaks.”

Maple Leaf is also phasing in temperature screening of “all front-line employees” as temperature scanners are received at its sites, he said. — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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