DOVER, Del.— Local nurses, dietitians, and residents called on Gov. John Carney to close Delaware slaughterhouses during a demonstration Friday, May 15. They held signs reading “Support Workers, Close Meat Plants,” "Meat Worsens Diabetes and Blood Pressure," and “Cholesterol Is Not Essential.” They maintained social distance while protesting outside of the state capital building.
“Reports of plant workers' deaths are piling up with over 15,000 workers having become infected with COVID-19,” says Karen Smith, RD, CDE. “Keeping Delaware meat plants open is harming the health of workers, the surrounding community, and consumers.”
Neal Barnard, MD, FACC, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine—a nonprofit with more than 12,000 doctor members—has sent a letter to Gov. Carney calling on him, and the governors of all 50 states, to order the closure of all meat and poultry processing plants across America.
"Plant workers who are asymptomatic may still be viral carriers," says Dr. Neal Barnard. "Because these workers directly handle meat and poultry products, and because the COVID-19 virus is easily airborne, transmission of the virus to the products they handle is likely, which means transmission of the virus into people's homes is likely."
More than 15,000 meat plant workers are infected with COVID-19, and at least 60 have died. With workers lined up in close proximity, viruses are easily spread within the slaughterhouse environment. Although studies show that infectious viruses easily survive during refrigeration and freezing, meat companies do not routinely test the extent to which meat products are contaminated with the virus.
Meat consumption raises the risk for many of the underlying medical conditions—diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease—that can make COVID-19 infections more deadly. A recent study found that regular consumption of processed meat, red meat, or poultry increases the risk for cardiovascular disease. Research also links red meat, poultry, and fish to an increased risk for diabetes.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in education and research.