JBS US units adopt pandemic response plans following COVID outbreaks

Employees walk around with face masks at the JBS USA meatpacking plant, which closed Monday after scores of employees tested positive and two died from coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Greeley, Colorado, the United States, April 14, 2020 . REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo

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May 27 (Reuters) – Subsidiaries of meat processor JBS USA LLC [RIC:RIC:JBS.UL] have agreed to implement infectious disease preparedness plans at seven US plants after a US Congress report found the industry had largely failed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among workers.

The agreement was announced Friday by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which said the companies will work with teams of outside experts to develop and implement new policies on engineering, ventilation, visitor control, cleaning and personal protective equipment.

According to OSHA, the agreement includes facilities in six states operated by JBS units Swift Beef Co, Swift Pork Co, JBS Souderton Inc and JBS Green Bay Inc.

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JBS USA, the subsidiary of Brazil’s JBS SA (JBSS3.SA), said in a statement that the plans they are developing will be built on a “COVID-19 playbook,” which the company has already adopted, outlining best practice and instructions for the system are operator.

In 2020, a total of seven workers at two JBS facilities in Colorado and Wisconsin died from COVID-19, and nearly 650 employees tested positive for the virus.

OSHA said Friday it found the facilities failed to take steps to protect workers and imposed fines of $14,502.

A Reuters analysis of public data released in January found that nearly 90% of US processing plants owned by JBS and four other major meat companies had COVID-19 cases in 2020 and early 2021, and that 269 workers had died during that period.

John Rainwater, an OSHA official in Dallas, Texas, said in a statement that the agency will ensure the agreement with JBS is enforced to prevent mass outbreaks from happening again.

The announcement comes two weeks after a panel in the US House of Representatives released a report that JBS and other major meat processors had failed to take action to stem the spread of COVID-19. Continue reading

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Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York, editing by Alexia Garamfalvi

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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