‘Secretive’ Defra criticised over companies dodging quarantine

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has been attacked for a “lack of transparency” over a list of 500 food companies exempted from self-isolation rules.

It comes in response to the soaring number of quarantined staff during the “pingdemic”, which has prompted warnings of food shortages.

Instead of quarantining for 10 days if they are “pinged” by the NHS Covid-19 app, workers will be able to take daily lateral flow tests for a week.

The government will send over 200,000 tests to manufacturing, food processing and wholesale businesses this week.

READ MORE: Government holds crisis talks over HGV driver shortage

Defra admitted that some would want stronger action to protect the supply chain, and said its “ambition” was to include more companies over the coming weeks.

The list prompted a furious backlash from food industry bosses.

Provision Trade Federation director general Andrew Kuyk was “extremely concerned” at the “secretive” selection process.

“Defra is refusing to say who is on this list, yet it has huge implications for companies facing this crisis and has the potential to be extremely discriminatory,” he told The Grocer.

“This decision could make the difference between being viable and non-viable.

“It’s fine if you are a big company like a Tesco or a Nestlé but what about the thousands of smaller companies not included?”

British Frozen Food Federation head Richard Harrow claimed Defra had refused to name the “golden 500” businesses on “competition grounds”.

“The initial concern is just who is on this 500 and I would prefer it to be a much more open process,” he said.

“There is still a great deal of confusion about how it will work and how you get on the list – that’s even before the many questions about how the new tests will work.”

Quarantine requirements are meant to end on August 16, though some have speculated the date will be pushed back.

The news comes as grocery bosses complained that shop staff had not been included in the new testing scheme despite shortages.

Around one in five Co-op and Marks and Spencer staff are believed to be self-isolating.

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