Vancouver health officials shut poultry processor

COVID-19 hits at least 28 employees

Health officials in Vancouver have closed a federally inspected poultry plant in that city after confirming an outbreak of COVID-19 so far affecting over two dozen employees.

The public health arm of Vancouver Coastal Health, the regional health authority for the greater Vancouver area, on Tuesday declared a COVID-19 outbreak among staff at United Poultry Co. in the city’s Downtown Eastside area.

VCH said it got a positive lab test Sunday from a United Poultry employee and attended the plant the following day to test the 71 staff members who were present at the time.

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Those tests turned up “27 additional positive cases” of COVID-19, VCH said. It closed the poultry plant the same day.

The B.C. government, in a separate release Wednesday, said VCH is “working with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to manage the outbreak” at the plant.

VCH, citing CFIA, said Tuesday there’s still “no evidence to suggest that food is a likely source or route of transmission” for the COVID-19 coronavirus, and no reported cases of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19.

“Therefore, no recall of chicken products distributed from this plant is required.”

The plant closure comes as poultry producers and processors face a drop in demand off the surge of consumer panic buying at retail in the early weeks of COVID-19’s arrival in Canada, compounded by restaurant closures.

As Chicken Farmers of Ontario put it earlier this week while it announced a 15 per cent quota cut, the pandemic “has materially altered (chicken) purchasing behaviour.”

United Poultry, which has operated since 1968, supplies retailers, restaurants and butcher shops across southern B.C. and Vancouver Island and bills its chicken and turkey products as “sourced locally from reputable farmers throughout the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley.”

“Unlike major poultry companies looking to process as much product as possible, we only purchase poultry from local farmers with whom we’ve developed strong relationships and whose products meet our standards of exceptional quality,” the company states on its website. — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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Dave Bedard

Editor, Daily News, Glacier FarmMedia Network. A Saskatchewan transplant in Winnipeg.

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