JBS USA has announced the creation of JBS Sanitation, a full-service food safety and food plant sanitation company that will provide in-house sanitation services for JBS USA and Pilgrim's facilities. JBS USA will immediately begin the transition of 10 facilities to JBS Sanitation, with an expectation of moving additional facilities to the new company if third-party service providers are unable to meet JBS USA's audit and compliance standards.
"In light of the troubling allegations that have occurred in the food sanitation sector, JBS USA has made the decision to create a company that can provide the highest levels of food safety and quality assurance, while also adopting the same high standards for compliance and employment verification that we adhere to in the hiring of our own JBS USA workforce," said JBS USA CEO Wesley Batista Filho.
In partnership with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, JBS Sanitation will provide competitive wages and benefits, creating hundreds of union jobs across the country. All JBS Sanitation team members and their child dependents will also be eligible to receive a tuition-free community college education as a part of the JBS USA Better Futures program.
"The revelations about child labor among subcontractors in meatpacking plants are simply unacceptable, and it has been heartening to see JBS USA's willingness to proactively move to address this egregious situation," said Marc Perrone, UFCW international president. "We firmly believe that a strong union contract is the solution to the exploitation of any workers in the industry and are pleased to be partnering with JBS USA on in-house sanitation at a number of facilities across the country, which means sanitation workers will now receive the strong wages, benefits and protections as other union members in those facilities. We look forward to continuing our work with JBS USA to ensure a safe food supply and safe working environment for our members."
JBS Sanitation will adhere to the highest standards for food safety, sanitation, employment verification and compliance. JBS USA and Pilgrim's will continue to utilize the services of third-party sanitation providers only if they can meet the same employment verification standards used by JBS USA and can verify compliance through a JBS-approved third-party auditor.
JBS has appointed Wilson Herrera, a 17-year industry veteran with extensive experience in human resources and compliance matters, as president of JBS Sanitation. Herrera most recently led corporate HR for JBS USA Pork, the second largest pork processor in the United States with more than 10,000 team members. He has also served as chairman of the JBS USA and Pilgrim's Sanitation Committee, which was tasked with identifying solutions in response to allegations of the use of child labor by third-party sanitation providers.
Alfred "Al" Almanza, global head of food safety and quality assurance for JBS Global, will serve as the head of technical services for JBS Sanitation. Prior to joining JBS in 2017, Almanza spent nearly 40 years with the USDA, working on food safety, regulatory affairs and public health issues. During his distinguished career of government service, Almanza served as administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service for nearly a decade, and as Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety during the Obama Administration.
"Sanitation is a key component to producing safe, affordable, healthy food," said Almanza. "It requires specific expertise and extensive training to be done safely. Our focus at JBS Sanitation will be the safety of the food we provide, the safety of the men and women who provide sanitation services, and creating opportunities for our team members."
To further ensure the allegations of the past do not occur in the future, JBS USA and Pilgrim's have established an internal whistleblower hotline, where employees can confidentially report any suspicious activity regarding the presence of underaged workers. The company has also provided local school districts with access to the JBS Ethics Line for confidential reporting regarding suspected child labor incidents.
JBS previously terminated contracts with third-party sanitation provider PSSI at numerous facilities, including the locations cited in the Department of Labor's complaint. Those locations include Grand Island, Nebraska; Worthington, Minnesota; and Greeley, Colorado.