Thursday morning, Del Monte Fresh Produce Inc announced 35 new cases of COVID-19 had been discovered after mass testing was conducted with the assistance of Riverside Healthcare at their Kankakee plant.
“Our facility in Kankakee, IL was mass tested with the assistance of the Kankakee Riverside Hospital. All employees were tested, including those off-site,” said Del Monte Fresh Produce corporate spokesperson Andrea Beron Hoyos. “A total of 35 new confirmed cases were found, in addition to our initial 9 cases, mostly from a-symptomatic team members. We have a very strict contingency plan in place for cases where an employee tests positive and we have implemented these policies at our Kankakee facility,”
Hoyos says the company is asking employees who may have been in direct or indirect contact with one of the COVID-19 positives to remain in mandatory isolation during this unprecedented time.
“At Fresh Del Monte Produce the safety of our employees is our top priority. While our production facilities remain open so we may deliver an uninterrupted supply of our food products to consumers, we are following the requirements of federal, state and local authorities and amending our business practices in order to protect our employees, maintain our food quality and do our part to prevent the spread of the disease.” Hoyos says.
It’s the second time in the last year the company has been tied to an outbreak. Late last May, Del Monte Fresh Produce in Kankakee was connected to an outbreak of Salmonella bacteria in packages processed by the plant coming out of stores in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
FDA officials later inspected the site.
Del Monte Fresh Produce says they are instructing bilingual safety precautions for all employees at their facilities. Additional safety precautions include full temperature screenings at the door for anyone entering the facility, social distancing in work and lunch environments, and mandatory facemasks for all employees, and full use of PPE in production areas. Del Monte Fresh Produce has also increase sanitation efforts which go seven days a week including five-hour sanitation in their production environment along with weekly silver citrate fogging/misting process for the entire facility.
Disinfectant foggers are a relatively new technology about the size of a garbage can allowing for a room to fill with a special antiseptic mist made of hydrogen peroxide and colloidal silver. Manufacturers claim all bacteria in the room are left dead at the end of the treatment.