Washington, DC - Moments ago, President Trump announced plans to use the Defense Production Act to demand that all meat-processing plants supplying beef, chicken, eggs, and pork remain open. The plan to mandate this executive action comes after major virus outbreaks and worker deaths in food production facilities across the U.S.
Meat companies have refused to shut down sick plants and are pushing to prematurely reopen plants stricken by coronavirus by threatening severe food shortages. However, the USDA reported 921 million pounds of chicken in freezer storage last week and 467 million pounds of beef.
In response, Tony Corbo, Sr. Government Affairs Representative for Food & Water Action issued the following statement:
“Trump’s plan to instruct slaughter plants to stay open despite causing major outbreaks of COVID-19 is even worse than his suggestion to use disinfectant to treat sick people. It’s deadly and foolish and will cause catastrophic harm. The consolidated and profit-driven agricultural industry has made our food system weak. It’s crucial the food industry protects workers by closing plants when necessary in order to keep the food system from collapsing entirely.
“Companies have proven they cannot be trusted to take the necessary measures to continue functioning safely amidst this pandemic. Even Tyson Foods admitted in their full-page ad in the New York Times that they are failing to meet safety standards in every single plant. In most plants, social distancing is impossible and fast line speeds make safety precautions impractical.
“Furthermore, most workers have not been supplied with proper personal protective equipment to work in these dangerous conditions. Thousands of food workers have tested positive for COVID-19, and at least 17 have died. One hundred of those workers are federal meat inspectors, two of whom have died. Even more workers have been exposed to the virus already, but a lack of testing is hiding the true scope of infection.
“The federal government should be stepping in to supplement food distribution networks to get our abundant frozen meat supplies to stores and food banks that need them. Instead, they’re currying favor with giant corporations that have continuously put their bottom line above food workers’ health, food safety, and the vitality of our food supply chain. It’s simple: if unsafe food plants remain open, more food workers will die.”