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Del Monte Foods

KANKAKEE — Del Monte Fresh Produce Inc. has confirmed that employees at its plant in Kankakee have tested positive for the coronavirus.

A media statement released Thursday by the company said a total of 44 confirmed cases have been reported. Initially, nine cases were recorded, mostly from asymptomatic team members, the company said. After conducting mass testing — all employees of the facility were tested, including those off-site — with assistance from Riverside Hospital in Kankakee, an additional 35 cases were reported.

The company did not release timelines of the original cases or when the mass testing occurred.

“We have very strict contingency plans in place for cases where an employee tests positive and we have implemented these policies at our Kankakee facility,” read the media statement emailed to the Daily Journal by Andrea Beron Hoyos, senior director of global corporate communications for Del Monte.

“During this unprecedented time, we have diligently requested a mandatory isolation period for employees who may have been in direct or indirect contact to a COVID-19 positive case,” the statement continues. Also, through a “long-standing practice,” any employee who feels unwell or unsafe is asked to go home and remain home as needed.

Other precautions in place, according to the media statement, include temperature screenings for anyone entering the facility, required disclosure of COVID-19 symptoms or contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus, mandatory use of facemasks by all employees and visitors at the facility, and use of full personal protective equipment (PPE) and smocks in all production areas.

Also, a “full, daily sanitation [is] conducted 7 days per week, including 5+ hour sanitation in our production environment and weekly silver citrate fogging/misting process for the entire plant.”

According to a March 24 press release, the company activated its Global Executive Crisis Management team and regional response teams at the emergence of COVID-19. Those teams were tasked with keeping the company “continuously abreast of the situation and communicate the latest developments, proactively monitoring and adjusting business processes and procedures as necessary to ensure business continuity.”

That same press release said, “To increase social distancing, steps have been taken to reduce the number of employees in farm locations, packing houses, port operations and production facilities, while ensuring business continuity.”

It’s part of the company’s stated desire to continue to deliver an uninterrupted supply of fresh fruits and vegetables.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, there is currently no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. Before preparing or eating food, it is important to always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds for general food safety, the CDC says on its website.

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