Smithfield to close Illinois pork facility after workers test positive for virus

(Reuters) - World’s largest pork processor Smithfield Foods Inc said on Friday it will suspend operations at its Monmouth, Illinois pork processing facility next week after some employees tested positive for COVID-19, adding to already strained U.S. meat supplies.

The news of some of the company’s 1,700 employees at the plant testing positive comes a day after a worker advocacy group sued Smithfield over working conditions at a Missouri plant, where the group said employees have been forced to work “shoulder to shoulder” during the pandemic.

More than 5,000 U.S. meat and food-processing workers have been infected with or exposed to the new coronavirus, and 13 have died, the country’s largest meatpacking union said on Thursday.

To contain the virus spread, other companies such as Tyson Foods Inc TSN.N have also shuttered some pork plants, but the closures are adding to stress for farmers who are losing markets for their pigs.

Smithfield, owned by China's WH Group Ltd 0288.HK, said the Monmouth plant represents about 3% of U.S. fresh pork supplies.

Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta