Smithfield appeals OSHA COVID-19 fine; critics say not big enough
Smithfield, the Virginia-based, Chinese-owned meat company, will appeal an Occupational Safety and Health Administration fine for failing to protect employees in a South Dakota plant from exposure to COVID-19 as critics say that the $13,494 fine was late and not enough punishment.
Smithfield spokeswoman Keira Lombardo said the fne is “wholly without merit” because the company took “extraordinary measures” to protect employees from the COVID-19 virus, Food Safety News, the newsletter of the Marler-Clark law firm, reported Friday.
OSHA also fined JBS, a Brazilian-controlled firm, $15,615 for not protecting workers in a plant in Colorado.
JBS also was critical of OSHA’s response to the pandemic, saying the agency did not provide guidance until late April on ways to remedy safety problems that would have prevented the spread of the coronavirus in plants, The Washington Post reported Sunday.
At least 42,534 meatpacking workers have tested positive for the coronavirus in 494 meat plants, and at least 203 meatpacking workers have died since March, according to an analysis by the Food & Environmental Reporting Network.
At the Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls, S.D., 1,294 workers have tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus and four have died, and at the JBS USA plant in Greeley, Colo., 290 have tested positive and six have died, the Post reported.
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The House passed S.4054, the Grain Standards Reauthorization Act of 2020, by voice vote.