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Three China-owned Smithfield Foods meat processing plants have shut down as a result of coronavirus outbreaks among the workforce, suggesting that food shortages at the consumer end might possibly be the result.
In 2013, Shuanghui International Holdings of China, now known as the WH Group, bought out Smithfield, America’s largest pork producer, in a $5 billion transaction that won the approval of the Obama administration. At the time, it was the largest acquisition of an American firm by a Chinese company.
The pandemic has reaffirmed that the U.S. must be fully independent of the global supply chain, which apparently also includes the domestic food supply chain when any of it is owned by the ruling Communist Party of China or an entity from another country.
In other words, buy American in America, too.
Even as a private citizen, President Trump long warned about the one-sided economic influence of China and other countries upon the U.S. market.
Smithfield’s Sioux Falls, S.D., plant closed indefinitely after 500-plus employees and an additional 100 or so family members tested positive for COVID-19. That location produces five percent of U.S. pork production. About 3,700 employees work at the plant, which is said to be the biggest single-source hotspot for the virus in the country.
Since then, facilities in Cudahy, Wisc., and Martin City, Mo., have also gone offline, at least temporarily, after a “small number” of employees came down with the disease. These plants are scheduled for deep cleaning and sanitization.
In guidance as of March 17, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration maintains that “Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19.”
The company CEO indicated that “Smithfield has implemented rigorous protocols to try to protect workers, use of thermal scanning, personal protective equipment and physical barriers,” the Daily Mail reported.
The Epoch Times claims that the company offered $500 bonuses to workers who stayed on the job even after the first coronavirus case emerged.
Twitter users have weighed in on the disturbing developments at Smithfield Foods, particularly the eyebrow-raising China connection.
Traveled to Sioux Falls, SD, where this Smithfield Foods pork plant has closed indefinitely.
518 employees here tested positive for #COVID19.
55% of ALL cases in South Dakota can be traced to this *single* plant. pic.twitter.com/WB98Th7SBN
— Blayne Alexander (@ReporterBlayne) April 15, 2020
Governor Noem is right when saying a shelter in place order wouldn’t have stopped the Smithfield Foods outbreak. But for the wrong reason. Smithfield Foods sat on the outbreak for 2 weeks and did nothing. Had it acted in late March, not mid April, Sioux Falls would be much safer.
— Mike McDowell (@M_McDowell) April 15, 2020
Is it time to question why our largest domestic meat processor is owned by the Chinese? FYI, the owner of Smithfield Foods is WH Group, a Chinese conglomerate with headquarters in Luohe, a city 4 hours north of Wuhan. #covid @USDAFoodSafety @peta https://t.co/KWiskQjtu3
— Lawrence Black (@lawbla) April 16, 2020
Gov. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) has pushed back against media criticism that she declined to implement a stay-at-home order for the entire state.
“Regardless if I had chosen to put a shelter-in-place order across the state of South Dakota, that plant would have been up and operating because it’s such an important part of our food supply and, frankly, having it running is a national security issue,” she said.
The state is aggressively testing employees and anyone who came in contact with them, according to Noem, along with imposing isolation requirements.
A team from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is headed to the plant for an inspection today.
Several other meat processors, such as Tyson Foods, JBS USA, and Cargill have suspended operations at least temporarily when some employees fell sick.
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