Tyson Foods deploys walk-through temperature scanners at three US sites that help feed millions

Key Points
  • Tyson Foods is using infrared body temperature scanners at three U.S. sites.
  • The FDA says it is “committed to maximum regulatory flexibility” related to the use of infrared body temperature scanners to detect COVID-19 symptoms

Tyson Foods is using walk-through infrared body temperature scanners at three processing plants in an effort to keep coronavirus out of its sites and maintain the stability of U.S. food supply.

The scanners can check employees' temperature as they walk into the building.

Tyson gave CNBC an exclusive first look at video of how the walk-through scanners work.

A temperature scanner used by Tyson Foods.
Tyson Foods

"Every person that needs to enter our facility, team member, visitor, anyone has their temperature taken before they enter the facility," Tyson's senior vice president of health and safety Tom Brower told CNBC. 

"One beef facility in Nebraska produces enough food every day to feed 18 million people. We have a vital role to continue to feed the nation. We are doing everything we can to keep employees safe."

Brower said the scanners allow for mass screening and are faster and more accurate than handheld devices. "People can just naturally enter the workforce and it's scanning them for their temperature," he said.

The Food and Drug Administration said infrared body temperature scanners have not been approved to detect fevers as a symptom of COVID-19 but it's exploring new guidance in response to the pandemic. Similar fever-detecting devices have been used to identify sick travelers in airports in Asia since the SARS outbreak in 2003.

A temperature scanner used by Tyson Foods.
Tyson Foods

"The FDA is committed to maximum regulatory flexibility in its response to this pandemic, while assuring products are appropriate for use," an FDA spokesperson told CNBC.

"The FDA has a variety of tools to help meet the medical device needs of the American people during a public health emergency, including the ability to authorize emergency use of an unapproved medical device or product marketed for medical purposes that is eligible for such use, in certain circumstances."

A temperature scanner used by Tyson Foods.
Tyson Foods

Some other large companies say they're either already using or exploring the use of walk-through temperature scanners.

People familiar with Goldman Sachs' coronavirus planning say the bank is in discussions to buy infrared body temperature scanners for several offices. Their use is part of a broader plan for when employees are cleared by health officials to return to the office.

Gary Strahan, the CEO of a Texas-based company called Infrared Cameras, said Ford and Carnival Cruise Line have purchased infrared body temperature scanners. Neither company responded to requests for comment.

UPS said infrared body temperature scanners are under consideration for its 2,200 facilities, but it believes other options can be put in place more quickly.

Walmart to start taking employees' temperatures ahead of shifts
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