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Beef jerky maker employed children who worked on "dangerous equipment," federal officials say

The bittersweet reality behind chocolate
The bittersweet reality behind chocolate 09:08

Monogram Meat Snacks, a maker of beef jerky, corndogs and other meat products, has paid more than $140,000 in penalties for employing at least 11 children at its meat-packing facility in Chandler, Minnesota, the U.S. Department of Labor said on Tuesday.

Monogram agreed to pay the civil fine as part of an investigation that began in March and in which investigators found the company employed five 17-year-olds, four 16-year-olds and two 15-year-olds in violation of federal child labor laws. Monogram makes private-label meat snacks, appetizers, assembled sandwiches, fully-cooked and raw bacon, corn dogs and other food products.

Nine of the children were found to be operating hazardous machinery at the processing plant, a subsidiary of Memphis, Tennessee-based Monogram Foods, which operates 13 facilities in seven states and employs more than 3,600 people. The case comes amid a surge in child labor violations this year, with critics pointing to weaker child labor laws in some states as well as an influx of unaccompanied minors crossing into the U.S. as an underlying cause. 

"No employer should ever jeopardize the safety of children by employing them to operate dangerous equipment," Jessica Looman, the DOL's Principal Deputy Wage and House Administrator, stated in a news release

Monogram told CBS MoneyWatch in an emailed statement that it has made changes to its policies and procedures that "make it significantly less likely this will occur again," the spokesperson added. The company said it was "disappointed" that the DOL's review of "hundreds of employees" found a small number of underage workers.

The investigation of Monogram is part of a federal effort to combat child labor announced earlier in the year. The DOL has found a 69% spike in children being employed illegally by companies since 2018. 

In July, federal regulators said nearly 4,500 children had been found to be working in violation of federal child labor laws during the prior 10 months. 

The work can prove fatal, as was the case of a 16-year-old who died in an incident at a poultry plant in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in July. 

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