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Brazil charges JBS unit over coronavirus worker protection, 18th suit against JBS

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Federal labor prosecutors in Brazil have filed a civil suit against food processor Seara Alimentos, a division of meatpacking giant JBS SA, accusing it of failing to protect workers from the coronavirus at two plants in the southern state of Santa Catarina, they said in a statement on Tuesday.

Prosecutors allege that the company did not adequately test employees at the two facilities in the town of Itapiranga. They also claimed that it did not properly isolate workers with symptoms of COVID-19 and brought employees back to work too soon after quarantine, among other issues.

JBS has had thousands of infections at its plants in Brazil, and prosecutors and inspectors have alleged similar conduct at the company’s facilities throughout the region. This is the 18th civil lawsuit Brazilian labor prosecutors have brought against the company, they said in the statement.

In a statement on Tuesday evening, the company declined to comment on the specific allegations but defended the manner in which it protects workers.

“JBS will not comment, and it reiterates that its priority is the protection of workers, adopting rigid protocols to confront COVID-19,” it said

Reporting by Gram Slattery; Editing by Aurora Ellis and Cynthia Osterman