Hundreds of workers at Tyson Foods poultry plant in Arkansas have tested positive for coronavirus, though most of the workers who tested positive are asymptomatic.
Out of 3,748 Tyson employees tested in Benton and Washington Counties, 481 were found to have coronavirus, with 455 of those patients reporting no symptoms. The outbreak was centered at Tyson’s poultry plant in the town of Springdale.
China has reportedly ceased importing poultry from the facility upon learning of the outbreak. Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson told the Associated Press that global and U.S. health organizations including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have said there is no evidence of coronavirus transmission via food.
“At Tyson, we’re confident our products are safe and we’re hopeful consultations between the U.S. and Chinese governments will resolve this matter,” Mickelson said. “Our top priority is the health and safety of our team members, and we work closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to ensure that we produce all of our food in full compliance with government safety requirements.”
China resumed importing U.S. poultry in November 2019 after a five-year ban following an outbreak of avian flu. The ban closed off a market worth $500 million to U.S. exporters.
Meatpacking facilities have seen some of the most serious localized outbreaks of coronavirus, along with prisons and nursing homes. Tyson plants in Nebraska, N.C., and Iowa have reported outbreaks, while meat processor Smithfield has also seen outbreaks at various facilities.
Those outbreaks led the meatpacking industry to warn of a meat shortage in the U.S., and meat prices have risen at markets across the country. However, meat exports to China have also risen during the coronavirus pandemic.