Banham Poultry defends safety record after coronavirus cases rise to 80
- Credit: PA
Banham Poultry’s boss has defended the factory’s pandemic precautions after the number of coronavirus cases rose to 80.
Norfolk County Council confirmed on Thursday that another five workers at the meat factory in Attleborough had the virus out of 376 tested, but it remains open, apart from one area.
Food factory workers warned in this newspaper in March that their workplaces could become coronavirus hotspots because of lack of social distancing.
The Food Standards Agency said earlier this week it was now monitoring outbreaks at 40 food production plants in England.
The largest of those is the Greencore sandwich factory in Northampton where 300 workers caught the virus.
That factory was closed, but in Banham Poultry’s case, Norfolk public health decided that shutting the factory’s cutting room is enough to contain the outbreak. They will shut the rest of the factory if asked to by the government.
Norfolk’s director of public health, Dr Louise Smith said: “We believe it is the most effective way to protect the wider public from further transmission. We have carefully assessed the various levels of risk to come to this decision.”
She said Banham Poultry’s management had worked “tirelessly” to arrange the partial closure.
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But one woman, who visited the factory near Attleborough for an interview two weeks ago, said she turned down the job because she was so concerned about safety measures.
Leah Jayne Stanton, from Hingham, had a tour of the factory on August 13.
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The 21-year old claimed she was told she did not need to wear a face mask during the visit and did not wash her hands either entering or leaving the factory.
She added that on the production line it was impossible to keep apart from other workers.
Ms Stanton said she had her temperature taken when entering.
But added: “I went into the main building and met a manager and went to put the mask on, but he said there was no point as we would be one metre apart.
“They put me in PPE, including a coat and wellies but did not give me a mask or gloves.”
In response, the factory said that anyone visiting would go through a hand sanitising station, with face masks provided at the entrance.
Blaine Van Rensburg, managing director of Banham Poultry said: “To ensure the risk of coronavirus spreading on our site has been minimised, we have had social distancing measures in place from March, including introducing separation screens where that is not possible.
“We have hand sanitisers available across the site, with a control point at every door touchpoint.
“We also have cleaners on rotation to sanitise the site constantly throughout the day, and every night the site undergoes a full deep-clean.
“A dedicated team has been operating to ensure the safety rules are abided by. We have also had staggered shift patterns to ensure that any concentration of employees is minimised.”
He added that all government guidance had been followed and staff were given and used PPE.