GERMANY, Berlin. Rising infection figures in slaughterhouses are calling German Federal Minister of Agriculture Julia Klöckner to the scene. She warns the industry to take responsibility.
by Henrike Schirmacher and Jörg Schiffeler
"Black sheep are damaging the reputation of the entire industry. There are rules that must be observed without fail, and compliance must be monitored by the responsible authorities", the CDU politician announced following a telephone conference with the meat industry associations. Exactly which organisations were meant remained open.
Corona infections have increased at the Westfleisch slaughterhouse in Coesfeld, North Rhine-Westphalia. After the plant was shut down by the authorities, all 1,200 employees are to be tested for the corona virus; 260 infections have been confirmed so far. Infections with the novel pathogen are also on the rise at the sister plant in Oer-Erkenschwick in the Recklinghausen district.
Meanwhile, the Tönnies meat company has begun testing its employees in the slaughterhouses. Experts from the health authorities assume that positive tests can be expected despite the absence of clinical symptoms. All 170 employees have been tested at the Kellinghusen site (Steinburg district). Here all samples are negative. "We are building on this interim result and are trying to minimize the risk permanently," reported Dr. Schulze Althoff, head of the pandemic crisis team at Tönnies. "We are thus continuing our risk minimization strategy since the beginning of the pandemic in February."
Klöckner expects all those involved to be aware of their responsibility "especially in the crisis". After all, in order to ensure the supply, the operation of the systemically important food industry must be maintained. But this must not be at the expense of the employees, Klöckner continued. The industry must develop concepts as to how the operation can continue under the strict conditions of occupational safety and health protection. "This continues to have top priority." For animal protection and security of supply must remain guaranteed.
In response to Klöckner's appeal, the German Meat Industry Association (VDF) announced that it was ready for talks and invited members of the Federal Cabinet to a round table. Together with Ministers Julia Klöckner (Agriculture), Hubertus Heil (Labour) and Jens Spahn (Health), the VDF would like to "identify concrete starting points". The Association's office announced that it was "open to improvements and advocates uniform implementation throughout Germany". Please also read the commentary "More objectivity in the debate on social standards".