CO-OPERATION and collaboration was the best way to ensure more COVID-19 outbreaks did not occur in Australia’s meat processing sector, Federal Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said today.
The COVID-19 tally associated with the Cedar Meats abattoir cluster in west Melbourne rose to 71 today, with eight new cases confirmed overnight, which along with 5 other community cases brought Victoria’s total to 1467.
Mr Littleproud has disclosed that two permanent meat inspectors and two transient inspectors were at the Cedar Meat plant during March, April and the transient inspectors then moved on to another processing plant. All four have had negative test results for COVID-19, but were self-isolating.
Mr Littleproud told 3AW’s Neil Mitchell that he was not formally told of the Cedar Meats outbreak until 30 April.
“So it’s important that there is transparency and, and swift action in notifying, particularly those that come into contact, so that we don’t spread this virus.”
Mr Littleproud also said only two states – the ACT and Tasmania — had formally replied to his suggestion to agricultural ministers to formally adhere to and adopt FSANZ standards and notification protocols around outbreaks in abattoir.
Mr Littleproud told Sheep Central he had consulted with his state and territory colleagues to work together and learn from this situation.
“This is not a time for recriminations, it’s a time to understand.
“We want to minimise the potential for this kind of outbreak to happen again and the best way of doing that is through cooperation and collaboration,” he said.
“We have the FSANZ standards as our yard stick to ensure our nation’s food security is maintained and our exports continue.”
Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services also today released details of other COVID-19 cases related to the Cedar Meats cluster.
A DHHS spokesperson said a Marcellin College student – who was a household contact of a confirmed case with the Cedar Meats outbreak – has tested positive for the coronavirus.
“As the student did not attend school while infectious the department has advised no further action is necessary by Marcellin College,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson also said a WorkSafe inspector who attended Cedar Meats on April 23 to respond to a workplace incident is self-isolating and awaiting test results, but has not reported any symptoms.
“The WorkSafe Inspector was not on site at the same time as the employee that later tested positive to coronavirus – and as such, was not a close contact.”
Five other WorkSafe team members who came into contact with the employee are also self-isolating as a precaution.
Mr Littleproud also today assured Australians that were no food safety risk associated with the Cedar Meat cluster and they could “continue to enjoy the best beef and meat products in the world.”