‘Spread out? Where?’ Smithfield says not all plant workers can be socially distanced

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CHICAGO (Reuters) – Smithfield Foods, the world’s biggest pork processor, said workers cannot be socially distant in all areas of its plants, in response to U.S. senators who pressed meatpackers on coronavirus outbreaks in slaughterhouses.

Meatpackers are under mounting pressure to protect workers after more than 16,000 employees in 23 states were infected with COVID-19 and 86 workers died in circumstances related to the respiratory disease, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker last month said Smithfield, Tyson Foods Inc, JBS USA and Cargill Inc had put workers in harm’s way to maintain production. The senators asked the companies how much meat they shipped to China while warning of domestic shortages due to slaughterhouse outbreaks.

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