Dozens of workers sickened at Willmar turkey plant; investigation underway


A turkey processing plant in Willmar was evacuated Friday evening after dozens of workers there became ill.

Willmar police tell KSTP the incident at the Jennie-O Turkey Store plant started with just a few employees coughing and vomiting. But before long about 30 people were sick and the plant was evacuated at about 7:30.

WCCO says Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar called in extra staff to help treat the workers. While a chemical leak was suspected, the fire department and a chemical exposure team did not immediately find one, the station says.

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The West Central Tribune reports several employees were being treated on a bus outside the plant while they waited to be transported to the hospital.

The website, which posted audio of police and fire dispatchers, says it was Jennie-O's plant #4 that was evacuated.

The company that would grow into Jennie-O Foods opened its first turkey processing plant in Willmar in 1949. Since then Jennie-O merged with The Turkey Store Co. and is now part of Hormel Foods Corporation, its website says.

From Willmar, Jennie-O has expanded to include seven processing plants.

Earlier this week an executive with Jennie-O Turkey Store was part of a panel discussion on workplace wellness programs, the West Central Tribune reported. Employee benefits manager Lori Tjaden said there that the company has 7,000 employees spread across its seven plants, farms, and other locations.

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