Irish meat processing plant COVID-19 outbreak: a retrospective research

Because the onset of the coronavirus illness 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, meat processing vegetation (MPP) have proved to be weak to extreme acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) transmission. Extreme outbreaks have affected MMP employees all through the world.

Study: Assessment of Environmental and Occupational Risk Factors for the Mitigation and Containment of a COVID-19 Outbreak in a Meat Processing Plant. Image Credit: industryviews/ ShutterstockResearch: Evaluation of Environmental and Occupational Threat Elements for the Mitigation and Containment of a COVID-19 Outbreak in a Meat Processing Plant. Picture Credit score: industryviews/ Shutterstock

Transmission of the virus is troublesome to manage in such environments as a result of nature of the work, environmental components, and issue sustaining social distance between the employees. Clusters of COVID-19 which have originated from MPPs have been reported from a number of international locations all through the world.

COVID-19 outbreaks in MPPs will be massive and, if not managed, can result in virus spillover in the neighborhood. There’s appreciable proof suggesting that superspreading occasions play an essential function within the institution and upkeep of SARS-CoV-2 an infection.

Current research have indicated that MPPs are one of many areas the place superspreading occasions are almost definitely to happen. Subsequently, office threat mitigation measures are required to scale back transmission and defend the employees and the broader neighborhood from contracting COVID-19.


The agri-food trade of Eire contributes to eight p.c of Eire’s GDP and supplies round 160,000 jobs. The meat processing trade is taken into account an essential a part of the agri-food sector and was an essential a part of the nationwide and worldwide meals provide.

Subsequently, an investigation of the danger components for a COVID-19 outbreak in Irish meat processing vegetation was carried out. This additionally helped within the detection of recent and extra transmissible variants of SARS-CoV-2. Though the general public well being authorities had applied a number of tips, quite a few outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2 have been reported amongst Irish meat processing workers.

A brand new research concerned a retrospective investigation of the outbreak of COVID-19 in an Irish meat plant. The research included air high quality assessments, semi-structured interviews with plant administration, verification of threat mitigation measures, and analysis of operational components.

A preprint model of the research is obtainable on the medRxiv* server whereas the article undergoes peer overview.

In regards to the research

The research concerned 290 employees from a specific MPP in Eire. Because of the rising issues on the vulnerability of MPPs to COVID-19 in Eire, the Division of Agriculture, Meals and the Marine (DAFM) carried out a pilot research of environmental and operational components that influenced the transmission of MPPs inside the meat processing facility.

The group assumed {that a} superspreading occasion occurred inside the MPP, the place many employees examined PCR constructive. Thus, it may very well be hypothesized that the plant atmosphere favored the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through aerosols and droplets.

The number of a specific MPP was based mostly on sure standards akin to whether or not an outbreak of COVID-19 had occurred within the plant in early-mid 2020, mass PCR testing of the employees had taken place, a big proportion of the employees examined constructive for SARS-CoV-2, and the first processing of the purple meat occurred at one website of the plant.

The group collected knowledge by visiting the positioning of the plant. A website go to comprised an interview with the plant Emergency Response Crew (ERT) and inspection of the ability to find out if the COVID-19 management measures have been applied. Air high quality evaluation was carried out in areas the place the very best variety of PCR-positive circumstances have been reported. The focus of carbon dioxide, humidity, temperature, and measurement and variety of aerosols have been monitored.

Research findings

The primary reported constructive COVID-19 case concerned a employee who labored on the meat slicing or boning corridor inside the plant and was absent from work in early 2020. This individual was discovered to develop signs in addition to check constructive six days later.

Total, 42 employees out of 290 examined constructive for COVID-19 on preliminary mass testing, and 25 labored within the boning corridor. Moreover, 111 asymptomatic employees who examined constructive have been reported over two months.

The preliminary COVID-19 mitigation measures applied on the plant concerned checking the physique temperature of all the employees at entry and different public well being measures that have been suggested throughout that point.

In mid-2020, the employees have been suggested to put on face masks and PPE, comply with correct hand hygiene by utilizing sanitizers, guests weren’t allowed to enter the plant, and solely important employees have been allowed on-site.

Throughout early summer season and spring of 2020, training and journey threat mitigation measures have been applied. Moreover, workers who returned after a interval of absence needed to comply with a return to work (RTW) protocol issued by the general public well being authorities.

The research outcomes additionally indicated that the focus of carbon dioxide within the boning corridor confirmed a gradual improve throughout working hours. This steered that the boning corridor was not effectively ventilated. The introduction of the air filtration system within the boning corridor confirmed a discount in airborne particles in the course of the work hours within the boning corridor.


Thus, this research supplies important perception into the function of environmental and operational components on the transmission of COVID-19. The research reveals that when the plant administration labored as per the general public well being suggestions, it led to a major discount in an infection among the many employees and workers who labored on the plant.

Though the research successfully decided the vulnerability of MPPs in SARS-CoV-2 transmission, it had sure limitations. Firstly, the research concerned just one plant the place the occasions had occurred months in the past. Secondly, the information collected was subjected to recall bias. Thirdly, the bioaerosols measurements reported within the research have been restricted to 5 days in two plant areas.

*Essential discover

medRxiv publishes preliminary scientific reviews that aren’t peer-reviewed and, due to this fact, shouldn’t be thought to be conclusive, information medical apply/health-related habits, or handled as established data.

Journal reference:

  • Walshe, N. et al. (2021) “Evaluation of Environmental and Occupational Threat Elements for the Mitigation and Containment of a COVID-19 Outbreak in a Meat Processing Plant”. medRxiv. doi: 10.1101/2021.09.17.21262959.  

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