Smithfield Foods, one of the nation's largest meat producers, has an ominous warning about America's food supply.
The company announced on Sunday that it was closing its Sioux Falls, South Dakota, plant after nearly 300 employees there tested positive for coronavirus, the Associated Press reported. The plant is one of the largest pork processing centers in America, and is responsible for producing 18 million servings of food per day.
In a statement, Smithfield President and CEO Kenneth Sullivan said the COVID-19 outbreak is having disastrous impacts on the U.S. food supply chain.
"The closure of this facility, combined with a growing list of other protein plants that have shuttered across our industry, is pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply," Sullivan warned.
"It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running. These facility closures will also have severe, perhaps disastrous, repercussions for many in the supply chain, first and foremost our nation's livestock farmers," he explained.
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Other meat processing plants have also closed temporarily because of outbreaks of the coronavirus, including a Tyson Foods facility in Columbus Junction, Iowa, where more than two dozen employees tested positive.The closure of Smithfield's plant and other food processing centers is strictly to protect the health of workers.
Smithfield said there will be some activity at the plant on Tuesday to process product that's already in inventory. It will resume operations in Sioux Falls after receiving further directions from local, state and federal officials. The company said it will continue to pay its workers for the next two weeks.
The Department of Agriculture has said there is no evidence that COVID-19 has been transmitted through food or its packing, the AP reported.
Smithfield Foods is owned by the Chinese-based WH Group. The company, which is known as Shineway Group outside of Asia, bought Smithfield Foods in 2013. WH Group is the largest pork producer in the world.
Editor's note: This story was updated to include Smithfield Foods being owned by Chinese-based WH Group.