The USDA has sent a letter to the meat and poultry industry, warning it to police itself better after investigations revealed multiple violations of child labor law.
Illegal employment of children has increased overall since 2018. The agency found that in the last fiscal year, 835 companies employed more than 3,800 children.
In particular, one sanitation company had more than 100 children working overnight cleaning shifts for nine different meat processing companies, including Tyson and Cargill.
Packers Sanitation Services Inc. had children using cleaning chemicals on meat processing tools.
A Scripps News investigation found it took years before authorities cracked down.
In February the Department of Labor fined the company $1.5 million in civil money penalties — the largest possible fine the law allows for.
SEE MORE: Scripps News Investigates: A city’s not-so-secret child labor problem
In the new letter, the USDA reminds vendors that "The use of illegal child labor — particularly requiring that children undertake dangerous tasks — is inexcusable."
The USDA asks companies to identify any child labor taking place in their facilities, and increase monitoring and sharpen language that warns against the use of child labor in their contracts with other vendors.
They also ask companies to set higher standards, including only working with vendors that have policies for reporting and addressing labor law violations.
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