Princes’ Wisbech plant in UK reports more coronavirus cases

Food canner Princes has reported 11 more cases of coronavirus at its Wisbech plant in Cambridgeshire, UK this week, bringing the total number tested positive at the plant to 25.

The site, which employs 407 people in total, was closed for 24 hours last week for deep cleaning after 14 cases of the virus had been identified.

However, a spokesman for the international food and drink group said ten of those are now back at work after being advised to follow NHS guidelines of self-isolating for 14 days.

“Our first priority is the wellbeing and safety of our colleagues,” a spokeswoman for Princes told The Canmaker. “We have been following or exceeding government advice since the outbreak of Covid-19 and will continue to do so.

“We can confirm 25 of our Wisbech-based colleagues have recently tested positive for coronavirus We remain in close contact with Public Health England and Fenland Council so they are fully informed of our approach and developments at the site.”

There have been no reported cases of the virus at the Princes’ Long Sutton site, which is the company’s largest food production site in the UK. Apart from the 24-hour closure at Wisbech, both sites have remained open throughout the coronavirus lockdown.

Princes’ Wisbech site produces Branston baked beans, Crosse & Blackwell soups, pulses, pasta, vegetables and sauces. It’s also a major purchaser of locally-grown produce and, together with the company’s nearby Long Sutton site, produces more than one billion cans of branded and retailer own-label food in a typical year.

The company has its headquarters in Liverpool and is owned by Mitsubishi Corporation, Japan’s largest trading company.

The news of these latest reported cases of the virus at Princes follow a number across Europe, many in primary meat processing plants, which have chilled environments and people tend to work in close proximity with each other, despite efforts to keep them safely separated and socially distanced wherever possible.

In the UK over the past month there have also been various cases. This included 216 confirmed at 2 Sisters Food Group’s chicken processing plant at Llangefni in Wales, which was closed for 14 days.

There were also confirmed cases at meat processing plants serving supermarket Asda last month. Cases were reported at a plant in Kirklees and the Kober site at Cleckheaton, both in West Yorkshire, which were temporarily closed for deep cleaning. There were also reports of 38 cases at the Rowan Foods site at Wrexham in North Wales.