Three mild cases of COVID-19 have been identified in our Coquitlam, BC warehouse facility. Fortunately, our colleagues are experiencing minor symptoms and are recovering at home in isolation. Our thoughts are with them and their families at this time.
We are taking the situation very seriously and cooperating with local health officials in every way we can. Following the first positive test, all employees who had worked in proximity with the ill individual departed from the facility immediately. Some were tested for COVID-19 based on medical advice. They all continue to isolate at home. Subsequently, our warehouse and adjacent work areas have been professionally sanitized by an outside contractor and remains open, per authorization by Fraser Health Authority.
We have already implemented further protocols required if a positive COVID-19 case is identified at a workplace. These build on exposure control best practices that have been in place since the beginning of the pandemic, which include strict social distancing, rotating and segregating teams, use of personal protective personal equipment, strict sanitization and hygiene protocols, and prohibition of visitors.
Our Coquitlam operation continues to operate safely to meet the demands of our customers. As always, our prioritiy remains on ensuring the health and safety of our team.
According to Canadian and international health authorities, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that viral transmission can occur via fresh produce. Fresh produce consumption is indeed encouraged as a means of supporting a healthy immune system.
On behalf of everyone at Oppy, I’d like to express my deepest hope that you and your families are weathering the challenges of these unprecedented days in good health and, as best you can, good spirits.
The COVID-19 crisis has brought about many changes to our operations at Oppy, but I’m hopeful that your experience working with us and our products has changed little, if at all. I’m proud of how our team has adapted swiftly and with unity to undertake our essential service of growing, marketing and distributing fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables throughout North America and beyond.
Like you, many of us are working from home. Fortunately technology has always been a priority at Oppy so the transition has been fairly smooth. Those working in our warehouses and on our manufacturing lines are taking the utmost precautions to assure they are staying safe. We are supporting and protecting them every way we can, recognizing their important role in moving much-needed nutritious produce into the market.
To our grower friends around the world, thank you for adapting to the “new normal” with great courage, and in doing so, keeping our supply chain filled with a wide assortment of excellent quality fruits and vegetables.
To those on the frontline at retail, we applaud your dedication and appreciate everything you are doing to help keep nutritious fresh produce on the shelves.
And to everyone who enjoys fresh produce from Oppy, from our families to yours, we wish you the very best.
Chairman, CEO & Managing Partner
How is Oppy protecting its warehouse workers and manufacturing staff?
Best practices, including social distancing, rotating teams, protective equipment and more frequent sanitization have been implemented all Oppy and third party storage locations; instructions have been posted and compliance is monitored. This includes limiting visitors to our warehouses and manufacturing areas to essential staff only. Unfortunately we are no longer able to admit drivers into our warehouses, and appreciate how they have respected this rule and done their best with the alternate facilities we’ve provided. We understand it must be disappointing, especially for those who have been on the road for a long time, and look forward to the days that we can receive them again.
If one of our workers shows possible symptoms, that person, as well as anyone who worked in close proximity, will be sent home for self-isolation, and medical treatment if necessary. Their work area will be fully sanitized prior to work starting again.
In growing and manufacturing locations, we continue to employ our standard, audited Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) while also taking additional precautions to protect our people and our products.
- Facilities are required to use EPA-registered "sanitizer" products in their cleaning and sanitizing practices.
- We use EPA-registered "disinfectant" products for COVID-19 on the Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 list that have qualified under EPA's emerging viral pathogen program for use against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, whenever possible.
Do you expect any changes to supply?
We anticipate steady volumes of our typical assortment through the spring and summer. This time of year, Oppy offers a blend of Southern Hemisphere items like fresh apples, citrus, and green and SunGold kiwifruit to complement our domestic berries, cherries, field tomatoes and greenhouse grown items. We are working closely alongside everyone we grow with to assure we’re advised well in advance of any changes and will pass those along promptly.
Are you concerned about labor?
Qualified labor is essential to our business. We are constantly monitoring this area and supporting measures that make it possible for workers to operate safely and consistently in our all of our growing areas. So far, labor concerns have not affected the continuity of our business.
Can a person be exposed to COVID-19 by eating fresh produce?
Coronaviruses are primarily spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. According to the FDA and other authorities, there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food.
National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicates that the COVID-19 virus can survive in the air for up to three hours, on cardboard for 24 hours, two to three days on stainless steel and three days on plastic.
In general, because of poor survivability of coronaviruses on surfaces, there is very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures. As well, evidence suggests that COVID-19 cannot survive in the digestive tract.
But as always, we recommend that you wash your fresh produce thoroughly before you serve it.
Is packaged produce safer?
As above, there’s no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread through food. With most of us shopping less frequently these days, however, packaged produce does offer the convenient advantage of having more fruits or vegetables than you might buy in bulk available in the home for healthy family snacking and meals.
How can I stay up to date on COVID-19’s impact on fresh produce and other food?
Industry associations have been doing an excellent job providing resources and information. You may find it helpful to explore them here, here and here. While self-protection advice been well communicated, you might appreciate the quick reminders here.