As COVID-19 continues to spread across most of the world, people are beginning to worry some of the coronavirus transmissions may be taking place through the meat they consume. These suspicions grew stronger when today coronavirus infected another food factory in the UK. Sir Patrick Vallance the Chief Scientific Adviser for the government however assures Britons that transmission through meat is highly unlikely.
He says food safety officials examined meat keenly for its role in the transmission and found very little risks attached. During a press conference, he ruled out contamination in meat to be a cause for concern. He clears doubts by pointing out the environments’ meat is kept in instead by referring to it as the root of the problem.
Sir Patrick further explained that the novel coronavirus prefers places with lower temperatures. Meat-processing plants have colder temperatures to preserve meat. This makes them ideal places for viruses to fester. This however does not mean that it is the meat the virus is likely to contaminate.
He added that factories have squalor conditions and it is hard to separate workers in congested spaces of such communal areas. He says that given the nature of how packed factories are, the staffs usually speak loudly. This is a cause for concern because research supports transmission through talking.
Today another panic over meat contamination spurred after Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething confirmed an outbreak. This one took place at a meat processing plant in Merthyr Tydfil.
At the plant near Kepak, 34 estimated people have contracted the coronavirus, 8 of which were found this very month. Mr. Gething assures that the small cluster is under investigation.
It comes as no surprise that such concern over meat contamination is rising. Seeing how even the whole island of Anglesey is under threat of transmission because of outbreaks happening in food factories.
Anglesey with a population of 70,000 people might observe a lockdown after a report from a chicken factory came to light. 158 staff contracted the novel virus which led to the factory’s shutting down. Learning this news thus makes people worry that meat is no longer safe for consumption.
This was also not the only meat plant to suffer an outbreak; another one at Wrexham saw 70 cases of coronavirus.
In a recent press conference, Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledged the cluster of coronavirus outbreaks, especially those coming out in meat factories. He spoke about how it was a reoccurring problem and now has his attention.
Sir Patrick also reassured people in the conference that the Food Standards Agency has carefully observed whether meat is a vector for coronavirus transmission. Their reports deem the risk to be very small and not of much consequence.
He made a point to emphasize that it’s not the meat that is the issue but rather the environment it is in. He explained how the conditions of meat processing units are ideal for transmission. Viruses prefer colder places and meat processing units are cold by default. He further added that the matter worsens by the congestion of workers working in close quarters.
He also explained how transmission is easier given that workers often huddle together during breaks because of a lack of space. This is how they were possibly spreading the virus to each other and not through handling meat.
Chris Witty is England’s chief medical officer. He points out that Meat-packing factories, food-processing, and packing areas are constant areas of outbreaks globally. Therefore they are areas that should receive attention accordingly.
It is reassuring to note that no evidence so far is present to say contaminated food can spread coronavirus. Some infectious disease experts point fingers at meat packaging instead. They say the virus can survive on some surfaces for days; therefore it could be a real possible route of coronavirus transmission.
Keeping this in mind, preventative measures such as social distancing and hand washing will be rather effective if people wish to avoid further cases. The conditions in factories that suffered outbreaks are proof enough that keeping distance between people is crucial besides urging them to observe basic hygiene of washing their hands. Doing so will not only save countries from lockdowns but will also help reduce health care costs.