Company named as site of COVID-19 cluster

The meat processing facility at the centre of a COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne has been named.

Cedar Meats Australia in Brooklyn, 10km west of the CBD, has been identified in multiple media reports, with the abattoir confirming to Seven on Sunday night it was being investigated for an outbreak.

According to its website, the business is a third-generation family operation dealing with mutton, lamb, goat and veal.

"The premises allows us to slaughter, bone, pack and chill/freeze and transport 10,000 units a day," it says.

 

The business name was put to government officials at a press conference on Monday morning and was not disputed however chief medical officer Professor Brett Sutton said they only identify cluster sites if there is a "specific public health reason" to do so.

Chief medical officer Professor Brett Sutton. Picture: James Ross/AAP
Chief medical officer Professor Brett Sutton. Picture: James Ross/AAP

"If the meatworks wants to name itself to be clear that it doesn't involve other places, then they're free to do so," Prof Sutton said, to which a number of journalists replied "it has".

"My team's just in the role of doing the public health follow-up of these places.

"Naming it is not part of what's required for us to do our work, so we follow up, and if community members need to be told, because they're part of the public health follow-up, we'll do so."

Cedar Meats closed on Friday and is being thoroughly cleaned.

"Meatworks are particularly vulnerable. We've seen from the US extremely large outbreaks at meatworks," Prof Sutton said today.

"In some ways because they are forced to work closer than some other workplaces.

"But the plan to test across those staff was appropriate and as soon as that cluster was identified, they've been moving to have the non-essential workers, and move to a shutdown at the earliest possible time.

"But there were some logistic constraints about having everyone cease work immediately because they had to go through processing to be able to get there."

Nineteen of the 22 new cases announced in Victoria on Monday are "in connection with the meatworks", Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said.

There are 34 cases in total linked to the cluster since it was first raised by Health Minister Jenny Mikakos on Saturday.

Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos. Picture: Michael Dodge/AAP
Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos. Picture: Michael Dodge/AAP

She said all staff were being tested and the health department was tracing the contacts of every confirmed case.

"There are no current concerns about food safety," Ms Mikakos said on the weekend.

"Therefore, there should be no broader concerns to the broader community in relation to this particular facility."

Australian Meat Industry Council chief executive officer Patrick Hutchinson confirmed to Beef Central that the facility was a "mixed species plant" but also declined to name it.

He said it was the first cluster at an Australian meat processing facility.

The Australian reports the owners of the abattoir have previously made a donation of $15,000 to the state Labor Party.

Asked whether he was aware of the donation, Mr Andrews said: "I've got no idea about those matters."

"You'd need to have a conversation with the State Secretary of the Labor Party about who is or isn't a donor," he said.

"Donations to political parties are a matter for those political parties."

He said the naming of any business impacted by COVID-19 was decided by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Originally published as Source of virus outbreak revealed


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