Germany’s biggest pork processor is being blamed for an outbreak of COVID-19 that is threatening the country’s recovery from the pandemic.
A plant in Gütersloh, a city in western Germany, owned by Tönnies Group had more than 1,500 workers test positive for the coronavirus. Those workers account for a spike in Germany’s overall coronavirus cases. As a result of the outbreak in the plant, public venues in the Gütersloh district have been shut and public gatherings banned.
Tönnies Group, established in 1971, had revenue of $7.5 billion in 2018 and processes 27% of Germany’s pork. The pandemic has drawn attention to working conditions at Germany’s meatpacking plants, which, like American ones, rely heavily on foreign-born workers. CNN quoted a union spokesperson charging that at Tönnies and other German meat plants, workers routinely toil in close quarters, in unhealthy conditions, and are expected to work unpaid overtime.
CNN quoted a Tönnies officer, the brother of the company’s founder, as taking responsibility and apologizing for the COVID outbreak.