Even before Thursday’s first announcement from Indiana Packers pork processing plant in Carroll County that one of its office employees tested positive for COVID-19, food safety was job one for all working in the food supply chain. And Indiana State Department of Agriculture director Bruce Kettler says the food supply does remains safe.
“We know that everybody continues to take precautions in terms of the processing facilities,” he said. “The CDC has provided good guidance to those companies about how they do that. I do know that a lot of our processors have continued to work on their protocols. They’re keeping people further away where and when they can. They’re making sure they have the proper PPE, and that’s working.”
With the institutional food service slowdowns and shutdowns, the markets for pork, poultry, beef and dairy have suffered immensely, creating an end-user dilemma for those producers. Kettler said pork might be the biggest concern right now.
“That industry has gotten to where it’s like just in time delivery, so you get hogs finished and you know you have to get them moved to the processor,” he told HAT. “The other thing we’re going to experience, not only with pork but some with beef as well, is you can hold those animals a little bit, but you can’t hold them a very long time for various reasons, not the least of which is when they get overweight you start this process and concern of how you process them and what you can do again.”
He said some hiccups can be expected within the state’s strong livestock sector, but ISDA is working with the Board of Animal Health, processors and pork, beef, and poultry groups to lend support and coordination where they can.
“We’re working on that now, gathering the data,” Kettler said. “One of the things I know the processors would want to know is how do we keep our employees safe if we have a person in our facility who gets the coronavirus? What do we need to do to protect the other employees? So, we’re looking at some options as to what we might be able to offer to those companies to be able to help them through this time period when we think we’re going to have some folks that will get sick.”
But Kettler reiterates he is very comfortable saying our food supply is safe.