Tyson Foods' poultry plant in Sedalia, Missouri, is the latest major food company to get dragged into a Department of Labor probe into children cleaning US slaughterhouses in graveyard shifts

Labor inspectors have expanded their probe into child labor abuses at major US slaughterhouses to a Tyson Foods plant in Sedalia, Missouri, in an investigation that now spans three states.

A Department of Labor spokeswoman told DailyMail.com that its probe into child labor violations — which lifted the lid on teen cleaners suffering chemical burns in slaughterhouse night shifts — now included Tyson’s poultry plant in Pettis County.

The spokeswoman said a ‘warrant was served at Tyson’s Sedalia plant’. According to local reports, labor investigators carried out overnight surveillance of the sprawling complex and saw people entering that were believed to be children.

Tyson, the $47 billion-a-year firm behind such brands as Jimmy Dean, Sara Lee, Hillshire Farm, and Ball Park Franks, is the third food giant to be sucked into the probe of child labor abuses by cleaning subcontractor Packers Sanitation Service.

Tyson Foods' poultry plant in Sedalia, Missouri, is the latest major food company to get dragged into a Department of Labor probe into children cleaning US slaughterhouses in graveyard shifts

Tyson Foods’ poultry plant in Sedalia, Missouri, is the latest major food company to get dragged into a Department of Labor probe into children cleaning US slaughterhouses in graveyard shifts  

Tyson is behind such supermarket favorites as Jimmy Dean, Sara Lee, Hillshire Farm, and Ball Park Franks

Tyson, the world's second largest meat processor, is based in Springdale, Arkansas

Tyson, the $47 billion-a-year firm behind such brands as Jimmy Dean, Sara Lee, Hillshire Farm, and Ball Park Franks, is the third food giant to be sucked into the probe of child labor abuses by industrial cleaning subcontractor Packers Sanitation Service

The Department of Labor's court complaint features this image of a Packers employee working in the ground beef room of the JBS plant in Grand Island, Nebraska

The Department of Labor’s court complaint features this image of a Packers employee working in the ground beef room of the JBS plant in Grand Island, Nebraska

Spokesman Derek Burleson said Tyson ‘does not tolerate violations of labor laws’ and urged the supplier to ‘conduct a detailed review of their processes to ensure our rigorous standards are being met’.   

‘Suppliers are required to ensure no forced labor, child labor or human trafficking is occurring, failure to do so results in remedial actions, up to and including termination of the supplier relationship,’ Burleson said. 

Inspectors launched their probe in August into Packers, an industrial cleaning outfit that allegedly recruits children as young as 13 to work night shifts using powerful chemicals to clean sites and dangerous carcass-cleaving machines.

They found 31 children aged 13 to 17 working night shifts for Packers at Turkey Valley Farms in Marshall, Minnesota, and plants owned by multibillion dollar food giant JBS in Grand Island, Nebraska, and Worthington, Minnesota.

The spokeswoman did not directly address a question about the nationality or immigration status of the children. Court records of interviews with the youths indicate they spoke Spanish, not English.   

Federal Judge John Gerrard of the District of Nebraska on November 10 issued a temporary restraining order on Packers, ordering the firm to stop working youths and to cooperate with the Department of Labor probe.

Packers will have a chance to challenge the injunction at a hearing in the federal courthouse in Lincoln, Nebraska, on November 23. 

In court documents provided to DailyMail.com, the department said Packers could well be working children in dangerous conditions ‘at its other 400 operations across the country’. It employs about 17,000 workers across the US.

Investigators focussed on Packers in August after receiving a tip-off that teens worked at the three slaughterhouses in Nebraska and Minnesota. They executed warrants to access the plants and the firm’s offices in Keiler, Wisconsin.

Investigators identified violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which prohibits children from working for more than three hours during school days, overnight, and from operating hazardous equipment, the department said. 

Packers’ underage staff performed ‘hazardous work cleaning industrial power-driven slaughtering and meat processing equipment on the kill floors of meatpacking and slaughtering facilities in the middle of the night,’ court papers show.

They cleaned machines with such ominous names as the Heavy Duty Head Splitter, the Dehorner, and the Dominator Mixer/Grinder, described in court papers as a ‘125 horsepower behemoth that can grind 36,000 pounds of meat per hour’. 

A Packers employee using a hose to clean processing equipment at the JBS plant in Grand Island, Nebraska, from the Department of Labor's legal complaint

A Packers employee using a hose to clean processing equipment at the JBS plant in Grand Island, Nebraska, from the Department of Labor’s legal complaint

The Department of Labor's court complaint features this image of a Packers employee cleaning with limited visibility at the JBS plant in Worthington, Minnesota

The Department of Labor’s court complaint features this image of a Packers employee cleaning with limited visibility at the JBS plant in Worthington, Minnesota

Several young workers, including a 13-year-old, suffered ‘serious chemical burns’ from using Packers’ powerful cleaning chemicals, often in conditions with poor visibility and with fat and meat strewn across the floors.

The subcontractor also intimidated its young employees into not cooperating with government inspectors and ‘allegedly deleted and manipulated employment files’, investigators said.

Packers told DailyMail.com that the company has a ‘zero tolerance … company-wide prohibition’ against hiring youths and uses biometrics and ‘industry-leading’ government-backed systems to verify the ages of new hires.

‘While rogue individuals could of course seek to engage in fraud or identity theft, we are confident in our company’s strict compliance policies and will defend ourselves vigorously against these claims,’ added the spokeswoman.

Turkey Valley Farms declined to comment.

JBS, a $50-billion-a-year firm and the world’s top meat processor, produces such supermarket favorites as Certified Angus Beef, Pilgrim’s, Swift, 1855, Country Pride, Clear River Farms, Moyer, and Savoro. 

Michael Koenig, the firm’s chief ethics and compliance officer, said it takes the allegations against Packers ‘seriously’ and had launched an ‘independent, third-party to audit sanitation providers at all of our facilities’.

‘JBS has zero tolerance for child labor, discrimination or unsafe working conditions for anyone working in our facilities. We expect and contractually require our vendors to adhere to the highest ethical principles,’ Koenig said in a statement.

A Packers promotional image of staff at work. Investigators say employees, including children, handle powerful cleaning products that leave them with 'caustic chemical burns'

A Packers promotional image of staff at work. Investigators say employees, including children, handle powerful cleaning products that leave them with ‘caustic chemical burns’

A JBS plant in Worthington, Minnesota, where labor officials say children were illegally employed to clean equipment overnight

A JBS plant in Worthington, Minnesota, where labor officials say children were illegally employed to clean equipment overnight

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