BMPA CEO Nick Allen said closing staff canteens would ‘drive thousands of key workers into the shops’
Allen said social distancing measures could be implemented and enforced effectively
Government rules mandating the closure of all cafés and restaurants in response to the coronavirus crisis should not extend to “critical industries” like meat processing, the British Meat Processors Association has urged.
The government’s move to close cafés and restaurants to enforce social distancing made “perfect sense” on the high street, said BMPA CEO Nick Allen.
However, the same rules also applied to foodservice operations within factories and food processing plants - a channel the trade body thought should be exempt.
“The effect of closing these canteens will be to drive thousands of key workers into the shops to organise their own meals,” Allen said, as he called on the government to rethink the forced canteen closures.
“Apart from putting unnecessary pressure onto an already stretched workforce, it puts additional strain on the supermarkets to cater for a new group of consumers. It also makes social distancing that bit harder to achieve.”
While there were challenges to maintaining social distancing in work canteens, there were measures that could be implemented and enforced effectively. “It’s an environment that can be contained and controlled without too much disruption,” Allen said.
“The BMPA, along with a number of other industry bodies, is calling on government to exempt all factory canteens, cafés and restaurants from enforced closure. If we’re to designate certain employees as ‘key workers’ then we should be able to support them with ‘key’ food supplies at their places of work.”
It follows calls by the BMPA and other meat sector bodies for a relaxation in some food safety rules over the past week, in order to ensure continuity of supply.