Hormel Foods-owned Rochelle Foods announced April 18 that it will pause production for 14 days following a notice of closure from Illinois’ Ogle County Health Department a day earlier.
The OCHD said city of Rochelle, IL officials were briefed on the need to close the plant after 24 cases of COVID-19 were linked to the facility, spread across three countries.
Rochelle Foods, which makes retail and foodservice products including bacon products and microwave meals, said it is working with local officials to further understand the closure order and consulting with internal and external subject matter experts to understand next steps to reopen the facility.
“My team has spent countless hours in collaboration with Rochelle Foods in an attempt to mitigate the virus spread, said Kyle Auman, OCHD administrator, on April 17. “Since these efforts were unsuccessful, it is my duty to order a complete closure of the facility.”
Hormel's website says the Rochelle plant employs more than 800 people at the 400,000-square-food production facility. Located about 90 minutes west of Chicago, the factory produces microwaveable and precooked bacon, foodservice and retail bacon, deli hams and Hormel Compleats microwaveable meals.
“We have decided to close our facility to ensure a broader understanding of COVID-19 and the impact to our operations,” said Bill Rice, Rochelle Foods plant manager. “Unfortunately, the outbreak has had an effect on our ability to fully operate. We have been part of the fabric of this community for decades, so this news is incredibly disappointing to our great team of people. For years, we have provided support to our local food banks and made products used by FEMA and other disaster response programs in times of need. To help continue to do our part, we are eager to reopen soon and start making our great products, just as we have done uninterrupted for decades.”
Rochelle Foods said it has committed to paying its team members during the closure, and that enhanced safety measures have been implemented.