WASHINGTON – The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division opened investigations into Perdue Farms and Tyson Foods amid possible child labor violations, according to an agency spokesperson who confirmed the news to MEAT+POULTRY.

DOL began looking into the two meat companies following a New York Times Magazine article published last week regarding migrant minors working for contracted sanitation companies in overnight shifts in certain Virginia facilities.

The agency stated it would not provide any other details due to the ongoing investigation.

Following publication of the article, Perdue Farms released a statement about the allegations and its intent to cooperate with any government inquiry, although it had not been notified yet.

“We take the legal employment and safety of each individual working in our facilities very seriously and have strict, longstanding policies in place for Perdue associates to prevent minors from working hazardous jobs in violation of the law,” said Andrea Staub, spokesperson for Perdue Farms. “We hold our suppliers to the same high standards, and we were appalled by these recent allegations. We are conducting a comprehensive third-party audit of child labor prevention and protection procedures including a compliance audit of contractors. We will take appropriate actions based on the findings of that investigation.”

“Tyson Foods has not been made aware of any investigation, and therefore, cannot comment,” a company spokesperson said to MEAT+POULTRY.

Several other child labor investigations have occurred throughout the United States in 2023.

Packers Sanitation Services Inc. (PSSI) agreed to pay $1.5 million in civil penalties in February after the US Department of Labor found that at least 102 workers from 13 to 17 years of age were cleaning meatpacking plants.

DOL also cited Kentucky-based Marksbury Farm Foods LLC in February for violations.

The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) accused meat processor Tony Downs Food Co. of employing minors in hazardous jobs at its plant during April. 

Other cases have been looked at or settled by state officials in Minnesota and Michigan.

In April, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack wrote a letter to members of the meat and poultry industry to take steps to prevent or eliminate illegal child labor in the food supply chain.