Food safety company accused of using children for dangerous night work

New York
CNN Business

The Department of Labor has filed a federal lawsuit accusing a major US food hygiene company of using dozens of children in hazardous labor during night shifts at various food processing plants.

The company, Packer Sanitation Services, is described by the Department of Labor as one of America’s leading providers of food safety sanitation. The agency said the company employed at least 31 children between the ages of 13 and 17 and made them work with dangerous motorized equipment during night shifts at slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants.

Authorities said several of the child workers, including a 13-year-old, suffered caustic chemical burns and other injuries. The company is also accused of obstructing an investigation by intimidating child workers to prevent them from cooperating with investigators. Company employees allegedly deleted and manipulated employment records, the agency said.

« Federal laws were established decades ago to prevent employers from profiting by putting children at risk, » said Michael Lazzeri, regional wage and hour administrator for the Chicago Department of Labor. « Taking advantage of children, exposing them to workplace hazards – and interfering with a federal investigation – demonstrates Packers Sanitation Services’ blatant disregard for the law and for the welfare of young workers. »

The company released a statement denying the charges, saying it cooperated with the investigation and did everything it could to ensure all workers were 18 or older.

« 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 vigorously defend against these allegations, » the company said.

The case was filed last week in federal court in Nebraska.

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