Sunrise Poultry in Surrey was well aware of the risk COVID-19 posed its workers and community prior to Fraser Health declaring an outbreak at its plant last week.
“COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country and the risk remains,” it stated in a post to its website updating the community on steps it was taking to address the disease and encouraging the community to remain vigilant.
But even so, positive test results from 29 staff led the Fraser Health Authority to declare an outbreak at the plant on 73A Avenue on May 7. The plant will be closed until May 17 as monitoring for additional cases and contact management takes place.
Sunrise was among the meat plants that received funding through the Emergency Processing Fund the federal government established last year to defray the cost of plant upgrades and personal protective equipment food processors needed to keep operating through the pandemic. Sunrise was awarded $36,083.
The poultry industry in BC was also well ahead of the rest of the country in vaccinating workers, with BC Chicken Marketing Board executive director Bill Vanderspek reporting that most “plants, hatcheries, catching crews had at least had the opportunity to have their vaccinations” by early April.
“We’ve been way, way ahead, so we’re in good shape,” he told a regular meeting of growers on April 28.
The marketing board maintains a $2.3 million contingency fund in the event a plant closure due to a COVID-19 outbreak triggers a draw. Board chair Harvey Sasaki said the funds could be used up in just four days in the event of a plant shutdown.
Neither Sasaki nor Vanderspek were immediately available to say whether or not the Sunrise closure had triggered a draw.
Fraser Health said there is no risk to the public from Sunrise meat products on account of the outbreak. “No recall of chicken products distributed from this plant is required,” it stated.
Sunrise’s plant in Surrey slaughters and processes poultry for sale in Canada and abroad. Its federal licence permits it to export meat to the US, Mexico, South Africa and Vietnam.