Child labor and food fraud are food manufacturing activities that don’t bode well for food safety.

Food fraud comes and goes, but child labor just continues to build, with the food industry losing any embarrassment it once had for employing children.

And in a new twist, more food companies may resist child labor enforcement. 

Action by the U.S. Department of Labor against food companies employing children has become routine.

Earlier this month, the Labor Department accused a Los Angeles poultry company with using child labor and then hiding its product.

Federal labor officials are getting more creative in their investigations.  In cases associated with the Fu Qian Chen Lu poultry companies, they seek to get the money forfeited from the money made from child labor.

They claim the children were employed in dangerous jobs.

Nothing, however, comes easily in child labor litigation. A lawyer for Chen Lu claims underage employees were planted by the labor department, an accusation denied by the federal agency.

A federal judge in Los Angeles saw fit to issue a temporary restraining order favorite Department of Labor (DOL) in the case. A company attorney claims child labor enforcement “does more harm than good.”

DOL sought to end “oppressive” child labor.

And the number of child labor investigations continues to grow.  DOL reports 34 child labor investigations in California alone involving 103 children employed in violation of labor laws.

The frequency of child labor in the food industry surfaced last year when 13 meat plants in eight states contracting with Packers Sanitation Services paid fines totaling $1.5 million for putting children in critical and often dangerous food safety jobs.

The Fair Labor Standards Act bans children younger than 18 from working in dangerous occupations, including most jobs in meat and poultry slaughtering, processing, rendering, and packing establishments.

Many of  child labor violations appear to be on the horizon for the regulated meat industry,

According to the Economic Policy Institute, child labor violations have increased by nearly 300 percent since 2015, and the Labor Department found more than 800 violators during the past fiscal year. 

Without any adequate southern border,  thousands of minors have been waived into the United States and often owe debts to criminal cartels, which make them targets of human trafficking schemes. 

Homeland Security is also reportedly investigating industries likely involved in those schemes, and the meat industry is on that list.

Meanwhile, state child labor laws are continually under review, usually by those who want to make it easier for teenagers to work

During the current legislative session, Kentucky adopted House Bill 255, upping the hours 16 and 17-year-olds can work to 30 hours during the school week; the previous limit was six.

The bill will permit some Kentucky teenagers to hold hazardous jobs, 

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