Nearly 900 people at a Tyson Foods pork plant in Indiana have tested positive for coronavirus and more than 120 cases have been reported at Triumph Foods beef factory in Missouri.
The latest tally of infections add to what has already become a mounting meat crisis across the United States as dozens of processing plants have closed or reduce production due to COVID-19 outbreaks.
So far, about 20 meat plant workers have died of coronavirus during the pandemic and a further 6,500 have fallen ill.
At the Tyson Food plant in Logansport, Indiana, 890 of the 2,200 workers - about 40 percent of employees - have tested positive for coronavirus in less than a week.
The pork processing plant has been shut for 14 days in a bid to curb the spread after employees started testing positive.
Meanwhile 126 workers at the Triumph Foods beef plant in St Joseph, Missouri have now tested positive for coronavirus.
The latest infections add to what has already become a mounting meat crisis across the United States as dozens of processing plants have been forced to close or reduce production due to COVID-19 outbreaks and supermarket shelves are stripped bare
Some of the largest slaughterhouses and processing plants across the United States have been forced to close in recent weeks due to outbreaks among workers. Others plants have slowed production as workers have fallen ill or stayed home to avoid getting sick
The local health department started testing all of the more than 2,200 workers at the plant after 92 asymptomatic employees tested positive. A further 32 employees who were experiencing symptoms have now tested positive and they are waiting for results for 1,500 others.
That Missouri beef plant still remains open amid the outbreak.
Cases at a JBS beef facility in Greeley, Colorado have doubled from 120 to 245 in just three days after it reopened this week following a two-week shutdown after an outbreak. A sixth employee at the facility has now died, according to a union official.
Some of the largest slaughterhouses and processing plants across the United States have been forced to close in recent weeks due to outbreaks among workers.
Others plants have slowed production as workers have fallen ill or stayed home to avoid getting sick.
The temporary closures across the country has stoked global fears of a meat shortage amid the coronavirus pandemic as farmers are forced to cull livestock because they're running short of space to house animals.
John H. Tyson, chairman of Tyson Foods, said this week that the food supply chain was 'breaking' and warned of the potential for meat shortages as a growing number of plant closures have left farmers with fewer options to market and process livestock.
'There will be limited supply of our products available in grocery stores until we are able to reopen our facilities that are currently closed,' he said.
'In addition to meat shortages, this is a serious food waste issue. Farmers across the nation simply will not have anywhere to sell their livestock to be processed, when they could have fed the nation.'
INDIANA: Almost half of the employees - nearly 900 - at the Tyson Food plant in Logansport, Indiana have now tested positive for COVID-19. Photo courtesy of WPTA
MISSOURI: 126 workers at the Triumph Foods beef plant in St Joseph, Missouri (above) have now tested positive for coronavirus. The local health department is testing all of the more than 2,200 workers at the plant. Photo courtesy of KQTV
Experts agree that there is little to no risk of contracting coronavirus from food, even from meat packing plants affected by worker outbreaks.
Coronavirus is transmitted mostly through close contact with contagious individuals.
'Currently there is no evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 associated with food,' the USDA said in a statement.
The FDA says: 'We want to reassure consumers that there is currently no evidence of human or animal food or food packaging being associated with transmission of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.'
As well, coronavirus is known to be quickly killed at temperatures above 135 degrees. Cooking meat according to instructions should kill any harmful pathogens present.
President Donald Trump took executive action this week when he ordered meat processing plants to stay open amid concerns over growing infections and the impact on the nation's food supply.
The order uses the Defense Production Act to classify meat processing as critical infrastructure to try to prevent a shortage of chicken, pork and other meat on supermarket shelves that are already being stripped bare across the country.
The executive order, released Tuesday, said the closure of just one large beef processing plant could result in 10 million fewer individual servings of beef in a day.
It immediately drew backlash from unions that said the White House was jeopardizing lives and that at-risk workers required more protection.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents 1.3 million food and retail workers, said earlier this week that 20 food-processing and meatpacking union workers in the US have died of the virus.
An estimated 6,500 are sick or have been