After the coronavirus pandemic began, several large food suppliers saw outbreaks in their facilities. Tyson Foods had to shut down multiple plants but ultimately 10,000 employees tested positive. Cargill, JBS USA, Hormel Foods Corp., and Prestage Foods are some of the other companies that had employees get sick. But the U.S. government is taking action against Smithfield Foods for its improper safety measures at its Sioux Falls, South Dakota plant that eventually led to infections and four deaths at one plant.
The meat company has been issued a citation and must pay a $13,494 fine, which they say they will contest. It was issued after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found several safety hazards at the meatpacking plant beginning in March. Social distancing was not followed, and there were no barriers or face coverings used, according to the Associated Press.
The first instance of an employee contracting the virus at the Smithfield Foods plant was March 23. On April 14 the factory was shut down for over two weeks in an effort to curb the spread. OSHA began investigating after the closure on April 20. In total, 1,294 tested positive and four died.
The Sioux Falls plant is a huge supplier of pork for the entire country. It processes about 5% of the supply. Some people are criticizing the fine, saying that it isn’t doing enough to punish the company.
“This so-called ‘fine’ is a slap on the wrist for Smithfield, and a slap in the face of the thousands of American meatpacking workers who have been putting their lives on the line to help feed America since the beginning of this pandemic,” says Marc Perrone, the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers, according to the AP.