AUSTIN, MINN. – Hormel Foods Corp. has closed two manufacturing plants in Rochelle, Ill., and Alma, Kan. The plants are scheduled to restart in 14 days, according to the company.
Rochelle Foods, a subsidiary of Hormel Foods Corp., was ordered to close its facility after a coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The company said it would pause production for 14 days after the notice of closure from the Ogle County Health Department. As of April 17, 24 cases of COVID-19 have been linked to the plant, which employs more than 800 workers and processes bacon, deli hams and Hormel’s Compleats microwaveable meals.
Rochelle plant operators are working with local officials to investigate the closure order and consulting with internal and external experts to establish the steps necessary to reopen the facility.
"We have decided to close our facility to ensure a broader understanding of COVID-19 and the impact to our operations," said Bill Rice, plant manager for Rochelle Foods. "Unfortunately, the outbreak has had an effect on our ability to fully operate. We have been part of the fabric of this community for decades, so this news is incredibly disappointing to our great team of people. For years, we have provided support to our local food banks and made products used by FEMA and other disaster response programs in times of need.”
The company said it will continue to ensure the highest sanitation and food safety standards. Additionally, further enhancements have been implemented including education for team members on the COVID-19 virus, increased sanitization frequency, providing additional personal protective equipment, prohibiting outside visitors and taking team members' temperatures as the enter the building.
Hormel Foods also closed its plant in Alma, Kan. Management at the Alma plant said it closed because an employee tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19). Approximately 100 are employed at the plant that manufactures meals and entrees as well as the Saucy Blues foodservice barbecue brand. The company said all employees will receive their base pay and retain their benefits during the pause in production. When the plant reopens it will include additional safety protocols such as the taking of employee temperatures and requiring employees to wear masks.
Hormel Foods is just the latest meat processor to close processing plants due to COVID-19. Smithfield Foods Inc. said April 15 it would close its plants in Cudahy, Wis., and Martin City, Mo., where several employees tested positive. The company also has closed its pork processing plant in Sioux City, SD, after it was linked to a large outbreak in the local community.
JBS USA has temporarily closed its beef processing plant in Greeley, Colo., after 16 positive cases were identified among a workforce that numbers 6,000. The plant is scheduled to reopen on April 24.
Tyson Foods Inc. had closed its pork processing plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa, on April 13 after 24 employees tested positive and had planned to resume operations on April 24. After 86 additional positive cases were found in the local community and linked to the outbreak at the Tyson plant, management decided to not resume operations. The plant employs 1,300.
On April 19, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported 389 additional positive cases of COVID-19 in the state. The agency attributed 67% of the additional cases to surveillance at meat processing plants in the state.