You may remember in the early days of the pandemic that people were urged to disinfect the packages of groceries they bought before putting them in their pantry or fridge.
First the bad news: You may remember in the early days of the pandemic that people were urged to disinfect the packages of groceries they bought before putting them in their pantry or fridge. Most organizations including the World Health Organization, the US Centers for Disease Control and others said that the risk of contracting COVID-19 by touching a food package was extremely low or non-existent.
As we reported before, there were packages of Chicken Wings imported from Brazil and received in China actually did test positive for COVID-19. Since that report a month or so ago, Chinese authorities have also found the virus on packages of frozen shrimp from Ecuador, squid from Russia and frozen seafood from Norway. China has issued tightening inspections and new custom restrictions.
The reality – and this is part two of this story is that grocery store workers should be given the same protections to limit the risk of further transmission, after all, they too are opening packages of frozen foods.
Which is why, with the announcement and hope of a vaccine being imminent, food system workers hopefully get early access to a future Covid-19 vaccine.
Many states have prioritized agricultural and food processing workers for the Covid-19 vaccine, according to draft plans submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in mid-October and experts say state and local officials should start outreach now to overcome language, trust, and access barriers that could shrink workers’ uptake of the vaccine.
The FERN reports that the issue has united labor advocates, the food industry, and public health experts, all agreeing that food system workers should get the vaccine early. According to FERN’s Covid-19 tracker, as of Nov. 9, more than 72,500 food system workers have contracted Covid-19 — including over 9 percent of the nation’s meatpacking workers — at over 1,400 workplace outbreaks. At least 327 workers have died.
“Food and agriculture workers are heroes. They have been on the frontlines of the pandemic, ensuring Americans have access to safe, nutritious and affordable food, and they should be at the front of the line for a COVID-19 vaccine as well,” wrote Smithfield president Ken Sullivan and chief operating officer Dennis Organ. “This prioritization will ensure that our employees remain as healthy and safe as possible so that Americans continue to have food.”
We can only hope that amid all the politics, that the science and common sense rises to the top and our essential “food workers” are provided to all workers across the entire supply chain – from our farms to our supermarkets.