Brazil's BRF registers 1,138 COVID-19 cases at a single meat plant, state data shows

By Ana Mano

SAO PAULO, Aug 10 (Reuters) - A single BRF SA unit accounted for about 29% of COVID-19 cases at slaughterhouses in Brazil's Parana state, according to the most recent data available, underscoring the challenges for stemming outbreaks at meat plants.

The data shows BRF's Toledo unit has had 1,138 confirmed COVID-19 cases while its Carambei plant had just five. Parana health authorities, which sent the numbers to Reuters upon request, confirmed a total of 3,979 COVID-19 cases at the state's slaughterhouses through July 24.

"Although most companies have submitted a contingency plan for coping with COVID-19, cases continue to grow significantly," Parana health authorities said in an accompanying statement.

In response to Reuters, BRF, the world's largest chicken exporter, said "there are no employees who tested positive for COVID-19 currently working at its Toledo and Carambei units." BRF did 11,000 coronavirus tests at Toledo alone, and said it is among the meatpackers that is testing more employees.

Carambei and Toledo are operating normally, it said.

The first food plant worker with a confirmed COVID-19 test in Parana was employed by GT Foods in Paranavai, the data showed. There have been 137 cases and five COVID-19 fatalities there, including three employees. There were no deaths at Parana meat companies elsewhere, according to the data.

Adler Dourado, a GT Foods doctor, confirmed three employee deaths and at least one other linked to the plant. He said GT Foods employs about 2,250 people in Paranavai and had to be closed for 14 days for maintenance and testing, which helped stem the outbreak.

JBS SA, the world's largest meatpacker, registered at least 88 cases at four Parana units, including 57 infections at its Santo Inacio plant, state data showed.

The company, which employs 11,000 people in Parana, defended its health protocols as "robust," but had outbreaks in at least five states. (Reporting by Ana Mano Editing by Alistair Bell)

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