An executive from a scandal-scarred, COVID-19-ravaged meat-processing giant has been named to a federal oversight panel on the meat-packing industry.
Sherri Williams, who oversees food safety at JBS, is among 10 new appointments to the US Department of Agriculture’s National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection, the agency announced earlier this month.
In addition to Williams, and another rep from JBS’ chicken-producing arm Pilgrim’s Pride, the 15-member board is comprised mostly of academics and agricultural specialists.
The company was slow to react when hundreds of workers became infected with COVID-19 at its plants in Colorado and Nebraska, union leaders say, and the CEO of JBS-owned Pilgrim’s Pride was indicted in Colorado in June for price-fixing.
“JBS’ repeated and studied contempt toward implementing basic health measures … may well have led to the death of six of our members,” wrote Kim Cordova, president of Local 7 of the United Food and Commercial Workers in Greeley, Col. “It took the threat of a complete shutdown of the plant to grudgingly move JBS toward some compliance with even the most elementary measures to contain the spread of the virus.”
Joesley Batista, an executive from meat-packing giant JBSAFP via Getty Images
The most recent appointment didn’t sit well with Ben Gotschall of the Organization for Competitive Markets, a Nebraska-based advocacy group representing independent farmers and ranchers.
“We don’t like the fact that JBS has been appointed to that panel,” he said. “JBS is kind of like our poster organization because every week there’s something that they are doing that’s just so atrocious.”
In Brazil, principals of the parent company, JBS SA, are under investigation for bribing 2,000 elected officials in order to secure government funding to fuel their company’s US expansion a few years ago. Joesley and Wesley Batista, the brothers who control the company, were slapped with more than $3.2 billion in fines in 2017, the largest in the country’s history.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez also have a beef with the Brazilian company for its alleged deals with the Venezuelan government after the company developed business ties with the administration of President Nicolas Maduro.
A spokesman for JBS said the company has implemented several safety protocols in order to protect its workforce, including increasing sanitation and disinfection, temperature testing and providing extra personal protective equipment. He also said that “no lobbying was involved” by the company over the Aug. 19 appointment of Williams.
Williams was first appointed to the panel by the Obama administration in 2014, serving one two-year term. She was newly appointed this year “due to her outstanding public service to NACMPI,” a JBS spokesman told The Post.