Failure to prioritise meat workers for vaccine risks food shortages, warns BMPA
The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) is again calling on Government to place frontline workers in meat factories on the list of early vaccine recipients to avoid potential food shortages.
The risk of a more rapid spread of the virus amongst key workers, coupled with expected disruption of food supplies at our ports as the full effects of Brexit begin to unfold, pose a severe challenge to the industry and to the smooth running of the nation’s food supply chain, according to the BMPA.
Nick Allen, CEO of BMPA, commented: “As the new coronavirus variant takes hold across the whole of the UK, we are hearing widespread reports of rapidly rising absences in the food supply chain. In some cases, notably in the supermarket sector, companies are seeing a tripling of staff having to take time off work through illness or enforced self-isolation.”
“My view is that priority has to be given to those that need it first. Those on the frontline should be part of that as and when capacity becomes available.”
“Given the specialised nature of the meat processing industry, if absences go above a certain level, it becomes impossible for a plant to continue operations. If this starts happening plants would be forced to close entirely and a sizeable chunk of food supply would disappear from supermarket shelves.”
Allen added: “None of our members have reached that point to date, largely due to the significant investment they have made to implement extra health and safety measures to keep their staff safe. But the warning signs are there.
“We are therefore calling on Government to include meat factory workers in the initial roll-out of vaccinations. This would provide much needed protection and comfort to this at-risk group and the communities in which they live as well as ensuring that the critical food supply chain continues to run smoothly.”
The Association first campaigned for meat factory workers and others within the wide food industry to be prioritised in early vaccine rollouts back in November 2020. Since then, a number of supermarkets have also called for workers to be vaccinated as early as possible, including Sainsbury’s chief executive, Simon Roberts. He commented: “My view is that priority has to be given to those that need it first. Those on the frontline should be part of that as and when capacity becomes available.”