Cargill needs months to fully cut out US firm fined for child labour

JBS USA said it ended contracts with PSSI
calendar icon 26 April 2023
clock icon 2 minute read

Cargill Inc will need months to fully sever ties with a US company fined for hiring kids to do dangerous work cleaning meat plants, Reuters reported, citing the head of the meatpacker's North American protein business on Tuesday.

The timeline shows the challenges of quickly finding and implementing replacements for Packers Sanitation Services Inc (PSSI), which provides cleaning services at slaughterhouses.

"We made the decision to terminate the agreements with PSSI," Hans Kabat, who leads Cargill's protein business in North America, told Reuters. "It's really important to understand that that will take time."

Cargill said it notified PSSI in March that it was terminating services at a beef plant in Dodge City, Kansas, and then followed with all PSSI's sanitation contracts. PSSI's work will end in Dodge City in mid-May.

PSSI declined to comment on Cargill and said it has a policy against employing minors.

Rival meatpacker JBS USA said it ended contracts with PSSI at "numerous plants," including any location where alleged child-labor violations occurred, and is bringing sanitation work in-house at some facilities.

The US Department of Labor in February said PSSI paid $1.5 million in penalties for employing more than 100 teenagers in jobs at meatpacking plants in eight states. One of the largest penalties stemmed from PSSI's contracts at Cargill's plant in Dodge City.

"It will be a while to get the remaining facilities out," Kabat said.

"These are challenging issues and we want to make sure that we understand fully how to manage that - getting the plants cleaned, keeping people safe and still making sure that requirements around employment and age verification are all 100%."

Cargill, the world's largest ground beef producer, is reviewing options for cleaning plants, Kabat said.

The Labor Department did not accuse meatpackers of wrongdoing, though the Biden administration urged meat companies to examine supply chains for evidence of child labor.

A February 2022 Reuters story exposed child labor at Alabamachicken plants. Reuters reporting last year also found migrant children were manufacturing car parts at suppliers to Korean auto giants Hyundai and Kia.

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