Beijing PepsiCo Plant Halts Production Amid New COVID-19 Cases

By Rakini Bergundy, June 22, 2020

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There may be a shortage of your favorite cucumber-flavored Lay’s chips in the coming weeks. On Sunday, state-run Global Times reported that eight staff members tested positive for COVID-19 at a Beijing PepsiCo chips branch, with the first case confirmed on June 15.

Beijing is currently under emergency response level II after a cluster of new cases of coronavirus were traced back to Xinfadi market. Two out of the eight confirmed Pepsico cases had previously visited the market.

In response, PepsiCo immediately halted all plant activity by suspending production, sealing off stock and prohibiting all outbound transportation in addition to mass sanitization of communal spaces. The PepsiCo branch, located in Daxing district, mainly produces Lay’s chips and has around 869 employees. The beverage factories also underwent testing and all came back negative. 

You’ll probably still find PepsiCo snack products on shelves as Beijing’s food and drug regulator department told Global Times that they had not been instructed to remove any goods from store shelves. 

However, customer confidence in PepsiCo appears to have shifted since news broke, with some netizens sharing their regret as they recently indulged in Pepsi products. According to a food industry analyst, one package of chips must undergo multiple steps before the finished product, and if anyone infected comes into direct contact with the food – contamination risk will be much higher. Additionally, although it takes 72 hours for a product to arrive on shelves after leaving the assembly line, the virus is able to survive for a week in normal room temperatures (around 20 degrees Celsius). 

However, Lay’s released an official statment via Weibo assuring that “the possibility of virus survival in the entire product supply chain process is zero” as their products are processed through high-temperature heat treatment and abide by the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) management system. Furthermore, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reiterated that the virus’ survival rate on surfaces is extremely low.

Meanwhile in the US, almost 500 employees tested positive at a Tyson Foods’ plant in Arkansas. China subsequently announced a temporary ban on products from the plant as this has been the company’s third outbreak at its facilities since April.

READ MORE: China Suspends Poultry Imports from US Over COVID-19 Fears

[Cover image via Global Times]

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