A fifth meat processing plant in the province has suffered an outbreak of COVID-19.
The outbreak was announced October 18 by Fraser Health Authority, which identified the location as the J. & L. Beef Ltd. plant at 17565 65A Avenue in Surrey. The plant operator is Sunrise Poultry Processors Ltd.
The initial case tested positive on October 8. An outbreak was declared after Fraser Health found “evidence of COVID-19 transmission among staff.” By then, a total of 13 staff had tested positive.
“Case and contact management is ongoing. Those identified as cases and close contacts have been instructed to self-isolate,” it said, noting that it was working with plant management to strengthen mitigation measures.
To help protect agribusinesses against COVID-19, the federal government has made up to $35 million available for equipment and plant upgrades nationwide. However, administration of the funds is up to each province. BC’s election call has prevented the province from securing access to its portion of the funding.
Four other poultry plants have suffered COVID-19 outbreaks since the pandemic began. United Poultry in Vancouver, Superior Poultry in Coquitlam, Lilydale in Port Coquitlam and Fraser Valley Specialty Poultry in Chilliwack. All engaged in slaughter.
According to federal registration data, the Sunrise plant is not a slaughterhouse. It is licensed for boning and cutting and other processing of both poultry and red meat. Its licence allows it to export to the US, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa.
While the plant continues to operate under the J. & L. name, it transitioned to new ownership in the early 2000s following a high-profile receivership in 2000. It was the largest meat plant in the province at the time and its closure was a significant blow to the BC beef industry.