These are extraordinary times. With the global spread of COVID-19 reaching pandemic levels, it is critical that we all do what we can to help reduce the spread and bring this virus under control.
At Maple Leaf Foods, we take our obligation to do our part very seriously. The health and well-being of our people, customers, consumers, business partners and communities is of paramount importance to us. With this in mind, we are taking a number of precautionary measures in our business and operating practices.
As a leading North American producer of meat, poultry and plant proteins, we already have strict safety policies and procedures in place. Our strong biosecurity programs that we follow for food safety also work as protection against this virus. We will continue to maintain these high standards. We are also leveraging our biosecurity and food safety knowledge as we develop and implement measures to enhance our business practices in non-operational environments.
When concerns started to escalate about the potential spread of COVID-19 in North America, we acted quickly to develop a pandemic response plan, along with associated business continuity and contingency plans. We acted early at all our sites to implement additional precautionary measures. Some of the steps we have taken include:
- Applying COVID-19 screening tools at all our locations.
- Requiring employees to working from home whenever possible and where that is not possible, we are taking additional precautions, including creating work spaces that maximize social distance.
- Increasing sanitation in cafeterias, break rooms, locker rooms and washrooms. We are staggering break times to reduce the number of people in common areas.
- Repurposing some plant offices and bringing in trailers to create additional break room space, reduce density and increase social distancing between people.
- Eliminating in-person meetings unless absolutely required and are leveraging technology to facilitate meetings and other interactions as much as possible.
- Restricting visitors to our offices and sites and foregoing any in-person visits to our customers, suppliers, producers or other business partners.
- Prohibiting business travel.
- Imposing return to work restrictions for Team Members who have travelled internationally personally or live with anyone who has travelled internationally.
- Making sure that Team Members who are required to self-quarantine continue to get paid in line with our short-term disability plans.
- Bringing in a medical expert advisor to assist with the development and implementation our response plans.
Unfortunately, in the last week, we learned that eight Team Members – one at our Heritage plant in Hamilton, five at our Brampton Poultry plant and two at our Viau plant in Montreal tested positive for COVID-19. The Team Members are all at home and we are keeping in touch with them. At each of the three plants, we immediately implemented our COVID-19 response plans, making sure that all health, safety and sanitation measures were implemented, including notifying any coworkers who had close contact with these individuals so that they can self-quarantine for 14 days.
After consultation with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which regulates and inspects our plants, we suspended operations temporarily at our Brampton Poultry plant to conduct a thorough investigation, complete a deep clean of the plant and implement additional protective measures. We expect the plant will remain closed for at least the next couple days. The decision to re-open the Brampton Poultry plant will be made only once we are confident it is safe to do so. The City of Brampton has seen a significant increase in cases locally in the last week, with more than 400 cases now confirmed.
Having learned of the confirmed positive test at our Viau plant Sunday evening, we have decided not to operate the plant today in order to complete our investigation and a deep cleaning of the facility.
Our Heritage plant is operating normally.
Throughout our Maple Leaf Foods network, our ongoing COVID-19 prevention efforts, including additional sanitation in common welfare areas and careful social distancing, coupled with our thorough, daily sanitation procedures will help us ensure that our people are as healthy and safe as possible.
As events continue to unfold, we will follow the advice of leading world health and disease control organizations. We will continue to monitor developments and will further adapt our policies and practices as new information becomes available. Additional precautionary measures that we have just rolled out at all our sites include:
- Temperature screening upon arrival; and
- Mandatory face coverings.
Our front-line team members in plants and sites are the true heroes, as they report every day to continue making food people need. To show our appreciation and to help with any additional expenses our team members incur as a result of the pandemic, we are providing weekly bonuses.
We are also sharing information with our stakeholders as we work together to do the right things.
We will continue to work collaboratively with public health authorities and CFIA to ensure we continue to provide a safe work environment. We are also working very closely with our supply chain and logistics partners so that we can continue to deliver on our commitment to maintaining food supply at this critical time. Given that the situation is extremely fluid, our contingency and continuity planning is ongoing.
We also announced several important actions to support our communities through emergency food relief and financial support for front-line health care workers.
We recognize that our food products are essential in nourishing people, and even more so in times like this. We are committed to continuing to execute our business with excellence, maintaining operational stability and the health of our people and being vigilant in the steps we are taking to mitigate the risk of the spread of the virus in the communities where we operate.
***Given the fluid nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be updating this information as new developments occur. Last update: Monday, April 13, 6 p.m.