Congress Opens COVID-19 Investigation on Smithfield Foods, Other Processing Plants
A deadly 2020 COVID-19 outbreak at a Sioux Falls pork processing plant is part of a new congressional investigation into the industry's response to the health crisis.
Eater is reporting that a House of Representatives subcommittee is looking into how processing companies and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) handled the coronavirus outbreaks in facilities nationwide.
At the Sioux Falls' Smithfield Foods plant alone nearly 1,300 employees were infected with COVID-19 and four later died last spring. In September of that year, OSHA cited Smithfield for failing to protect its employees from exposure to coronavirus and proposed a $13,494 fine, which is the maximum allowed by law.
The new congressional investigation is being conducted by the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, which is being chaired by Rep. James Clyburn, from South Carolina.
Smithfield Foods, as well as the other largest meatpacking companies in America - Tyson Foods and JBS USA - are all part of the probe.
According to data compiled by the New York Times, at least 41 major outbreaks at Smithfield, JBS, and Tyson plants across the country contributed to more than 56,000 positive COVID-19 tets among workers and resulted in more than 270 deaths.
Congress is also looking at OSHA's role in the outbreaks, accusing the agency of failing to 'adequately carry out its responsibility for enforcing worker safety laws at meatpacking plants across the country, resulting in preventable infections and deaths'.