More than 300 federal meatpacking inspectors are either sick from coronavirus or in self-quarantine after exposure to the virus.
As of Tuesday, 197 inspectors from the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) had tested positive for the virus, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said. Another 120 employees are under quarantine. A union reported three inspectors have died from the virus.
The agency has about 8,000 employees.
"Our dedicated personnel are still meeting all of their inspection responsibilities so that consumers can continue to enjoy a safe supply of meat and poultry products, " a USDA spokesman said.
But the growing number of infected inspectors illustrates the breadth of the outbreaks at meatpacking plants. Thousands of workers have been infected, dozens of plants idled and those still in operation are generally running at reduced capacity due to worker absenteeism.
The FSIS is allowing part-time inspectors to work more hours to make up for inspectors who aren't able to work. Slower production and shuttered plants have also helped the service keep up, since there is less need for inspection, the USDA said.
FSIS now has enough masks and face coverings to keep inspectors supplied for "the next few months," the department said.
"The safety and well-being of our employees is our top priority," the spokesman said. "We thank those working on the front lines of our food supply chain for remaining on the job and for making sure the American people have access to safe food."