JBS USA has canceled its contracts with Packers Sanitation Services (PSSI) after the company was fined for hiring children to clean some of its meatpacking locations.
The company does “not tolerate child labor or unsafe working conditions,” and came to its decision after an internal investigation, JBS USA spokesperson Nikki Richardson said in a statement to Food Dive. The meat processing giant will transition its sanitation services in-house at some locations in collaboration with UFCW — the union that represents at least 25,000 JBS employees — and will shift to other third-party providers at other plants, she said.
“After conducting a third-party audit of sanitation providers at all of our locations across the country, we established new procedures to ensure no underage workers have access to any of our facilities and are holding our third-party providers to higher standards,” Richardson said.
PSSI did not respond to Food Dive's request for comment at press time.
The announcement by the beef, poultry and pork company follows months of government action targeting the sanitation company amid a national outcry over the reported illegal use of child labor at meat facilities.
In January, officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) told NBC News they were investigating whether at least 31 children as young as 13 — who were illegally employed as night sanitation workers at several meatpacking plants in the Midwest — were the victims of human trafficking. The children who worked for PSSI were at five plants, including JBS facilities in Grand Island, Nebraska and Worthington, Minnesota, U.S. Labor Department officials told the network.
The department told the news agency it was not examining PSSI, but that it was working to rule out the possibility that a ring of outside traffickers forced the children to work to collect profits.
A month later, PSSI was fined $1.5 million by the U.S. Labor Department for employing at least 102 children to work overnight shifts at 13 meatpacking plants operated by producers such as JBS and Tyson Foods across eight states — the government department said. The children were given hazardous tasks like cleaning “razor-sharp claws” and other equipment posing a high safety risk, according to the Labor Department. The sanitation company paid the fine.