USA – The U.S. Department of Labor is conducting federal investigations into Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms, two major meatpacking companies, in response to allegations of child labor violations at their meatpacking plants.
The investigations are being carried out by the Department’s Wage and Hour Division, although specific details about the probes have not been disclosed at this time.
These investigations come in the wake of an investigative report published by The New York Times Magazine, which highlighted a disturbing incident at a Perdue Farms slaughterhouse in Virginia.
The report detailed how a 14-year-old Guatemalan immigrant, working at the facility, suffered a serious injury when operating industrial deboning equipment.
The teen had been assigned the task of cleaning residue from poultry processing when the accident occurred.
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act, originally enacted in 1938, explicitly prohibits minors from working in facilities engaged in meat slaughtering and processing due to the inherently dangerous nature of the work.
Perdue Farms has responded to these allegations by expressing its shock and asserting that it has established internal policies to prevent minors from working in hazardous positions.
The company has also initiated a third-party audit to evaluate its child labor prevention procedures, including those of its contractors. Based on the findings of this audit, Perdue Farms commits to taking appropriate actions and cooperating with the government’s inquiry.
On the other hand, Tyson Foods had not responded to inquiries by the time of this report.
The Biden administration has expressed concerns over whether large meat companies can be held responsible when children are employed in their facilities through contractors.
The Department of Labor’s chief legal officer, Seema Nanda, stated that it is no longer acceptable for brands to claim ignorance about child labor in their supply chains.
Child labor in slaughterhouses has become a contentious issue in the meat industry in 2023.
Earlier this year, a sanitation company used by major producers like JBS and Tyson was fined US$1.5 million by the Department of Labor for employing roughly 102 individuals under the age of 18 in cleaning operations that involved handling “razor-sharp claws” and other hazardous equipment.
The Department of Homeland Security also launched an investigation into a potential child trafficking ring operating at these slaughterhouses.
In response, JBS announced it had terminated its relationship with Packers Sanitation Services and brought its cleaning operations in-house in April.