MISSISSAUGA, ONTARIO – Maple Leaf Foods Inc. has suspended shipments of pork to China after the company reported cases of COVID-19 at its pork processing plant in Brandon, Manitoba. In recent months, China trade officials banned imported shipments from other company’s processing plants after Covid-19 outbreaks, including beef from Cargill and chicken from Tyson Foods Inc.
The company said the suspension is temporary and voluntary due to recent requirements implemented by the Chinese government. The protocol requires any plant reporting a COVID-19 positive case suspend exports to China temporarily.
“We are confident in our Maple Leaf Safety Promise – providing consumers with safe, great tasting food made in a safe working environment – but, we respect China’s new import protocols for Canadian products and are working cooperatively with Canadian and Chinese authorities to resume exports quickly,” said Michael McCain, president and chief executive officer.
Maple Leaf said the company also has been impacted by short-term increases in absenteeism. However, the company said this is a short-term situation and not a material financial event, given the diversity of the company's markets. Maple Leaf emphasized that experts at the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization have been unequivocal about the fact that COVID-19 cannot be transmitted through food products.
The company also said coronavirus-related absences are due to community spread of the virus. There is no evidence of transmission in the processing plant, Maple Leaf said. To help control the spread of the coronavirus in the Brandon community, Maple Leaf is reinforcing the importance of precautions such as social distancing and making 500,000 free masks available to community members.
“We have had 60 positives and 254 negatives among team members at the Brandon plant,” said Janet Riley, vice president of communications and public affairs at Maple Leaf Foods. “We are gratified that public health officials have said there is no evidence of workplace transmission. This appears to be a community spread outbreak that is impacting our Team Members.”
Brandon is the second-largest city in the province of Manitoba. As of Aug. 18, the province has reported 748 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19.