Professor calls for more transparency at meat factories amid Covid outbreaks

Cranswick Country Foods in Watton. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Cranswick Country Foods in Watton. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

An environmental health expert has called for more transparency at meat factories following multiple coronavirus outbreaks.

Bernard Matthews' factory at Great Witchingham hall, where there has been a coronavirus outbreak. Pi

Bernard Matthews' factory at Great Witchingham hall, where there has been a coronavirus outbreak. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Professor Andrew Watterson, from the University of Stirling, told the BBC that more action needed to be taken as “what goes on in the workplace will come out and affect the community”.

It comes after 140 positive cases of coronavirus were confirmed in a “significant outbreak” at Cranswick Country Foods in Watton on Tuesday.Prof Watterson shared concerns about the meat packing industry and the spread of Covid-19.

He said: “Since April we’ve known about the problems in this industry. Almost week by week there are workplace clusters appearing, so it looks as if action is not effective for whatever reason.

“It’s not absolutely clear. That’s why we want more transparency but we also want more action I think.”

Asked if people were right to be worried in Watton, Prof Watterson said: “I think there are legitimate concerns because what goes on in the workplace will come out and affect the community and what happens in community in terms of Covid may well go in the workplace.


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“So the view is that workers health is public health and therefore what we need are more checks to ensure the standards are okay.”

He added: “We hear a reference to ‘Covid-secure’ workplaces from the government but what we actually want are ‘Covid-safe’ workplaces where there are proper checks before workers go in.

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“We want to get disclosure, proper inspections and we want worker involvement, we want public engagement and we want a lot of transparency, which doesn’t seem to be coming at the moment.”

Prof Watterson said he was unable to comment specifically on the cause of the outbreak at Watton because there were no details.

But he said that was “one of the problems” and pointed to other outbreaks in similar factories in other parts of Norfolk, Scotland and Northamptonshire.

Last week, 75 positive cases of coronavirus were confirmed at Bernard Matthews’ Norfolk headquarters in Great Witchingham.Prof Watterson said: “Either there has been a failure in the guidance that has been drawn up which is about social distancing, PPE, cleaning and so on. So either the guidance has failed or they have not been applied or they haven’t in fact been regulated and inspected.”

He called on information to be made available so workers and the pubic can ensure plants have been inspected, audited and risk managed.

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