SAO PAULO, May 17 (Reuters) - Brazilian food processor BRF
SA confirmed it has made wearing a face mask
"optional" at its Carambei chicken plant starting Sunday,
according to a statement sent to Reuters on Tuesday.
The move had been detailed in an internal memo seen by
The company said the plan reflects an improvement in
COVID-19 indicators in Brazil, a high rate of employees with a
complete vaccination cycle, and recommendations from health
Other major meatpackers in Brazil have not changed their
worker protection policies yet.
JBS SA, the world's largest meat producer, told
Reuters it is keeping mask requirements at its units as part of
its COVID prevention protocol. Beef processors Minerva
and Marfrig said the same in separate
Aurora, a privately-owned pork and poultry processor, is
maintaining mask use "at its main plants as these are units that
export to countries that require it."
China, which has selectively banned meat plants in Brazil
and other countries over COVID concerns since the start of the
pandemic, continues to enforce strict measures to contain the
spread of coronavirus.
BRF's Carambei plant is authorized to export chicken
products to Hong Kong, Egypt and South Africa, among others,
according to the Brazilian Agriculture Ministry's website.
The use of face masks in Carambei will continue to be
mandatory for workers in risk groups, including over
60-year-olds or immunosuppressed individuals, BRF said.
Suspending mandatory use of face masks would be in line with
an amended national agreement signed between the company and
labor prosecutors relative to COVID protocols, according to the
Carambei labor union, which cited information from BRF.
The labor prosecutor's office in Parana deferred questions
to labor prosecutors in neighboring Santa Catarina state, which
did not return a request for comment.
When COVID-19 infections started to ravage Brazilian meat
plants in 2020, some companies, including BRF, signed agreements
with labor prosecutors in different states aimed at improving
on-site worker protections.
(Reporting by Ana Mano
Editing by Brad Haynes, Bernadette Baum and Bernard Orr)