SPC vaccine requirement for workers sparks social media threats

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Police are investigating social media threats to contaminate SPC food products after the manufacturer behind brands including Ardmona and Goulburn Valley announced it would require its staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

SPC chairman Hussein Rifai said he was completely confident in the safety of the company’s products, citing its state-of-the-art screening, hygiene and quality assurance systems.

Workers at SPC’s factory in Shepparton will be required to be fully vaccinated by the end of November in a plan that has created a firestorm from anti-vaxxers.Credit:Justin McManus

“So we have no concerns at all [about safety], but we are the sort of people that act proactively not reactively,” Mr Rifai said.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said police in Shepparton, where SPC has a major facility, had received a report on Thursday of an online account making comments about “potential product contamination”.

“Shepparton crime investigation unit detectives are investigating whether an offence has occurred,” the spokeswoman said. She said anyone found to be contaminating food products could be charged with a serious offence that comes with penalties ranging up to a maximum of 15 years in jail.

Some of the posts SPC shared with The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age include posts from pseudonymous social media users suggesting people deface the company’s displays on shelves and one that pondered what would happen “if someone found a needle in a can of SPC food”.

Other messages the company shared contained graphic emails branding Mr Rifai a Nazi, while others made racist references to his heritage.

SPC has repeatedly said it wants its workers to be vaccinated by the end of November so that they do not get sick and can keep producing essential food for the country in the face of widespread lockdowns and growing Delta-variant coronavirus cases.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union has criticised the plan, saying there was no consultation before it was announced and argued vaccination decisions should be left to public health officials.

Meetings between the company and the union are ongoing.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has over the last fortnight said that some businesses may have a right to mandate vaccines but suggested state workplace regulators make clear that employers who choose not to require jabs will not face legal claims from staff who get the coronavirus.

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