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COVID-19 Cases Continue to Rise in US Food Industry

More than 32,000 food processing, meatpacking, and farm workers have tested positive for COVID-19 since April 22, according to a new analysis of figures on coronavirus infections in the food sector published Monday by the Food & Environment Reporting Network (FERN).

Meatpacking operations have been the hardest hit during the pandemic, with 27,138 cases logged at 249 plants across the country from April 22 to June 22, according to the data analysis. 2,771 infections have been identified among the food processing workers at 84 plants and 2,771 workers at 46 farms have contracted the virus during the period. 

“The true count is likely much higher, as data irregularities, including the industry’s reticence to share data about worker illness and the inconsistent availability of state figures, make it impossible to know exactly how many workers have contracted the virus,” wrote FERN’s Leah Douglas. 

As of June 22, Colorado, Washington State, and Wisconsin had the highest number of cases among food processing personnel. In the meatpacking sector, outbreaks were most severe in Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas. 

Another report released earlier this month by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that some 1,200 food processing workers in the United States have contracted the virus at 60 plants. The researchers found that COVID-19 cases have emerged at facilities operated by some of the world’s biggest food companies, including Conagra, Kraft Heinz, and Frito-Lay.

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