Brazil prosecutors call for JBS to suspend chicken plant for COVID-19 tests

FILE PHOTO: A JBS SA's poultry factory employee is pictured after the company was hit by an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Passo Fundo, state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, April 24, 2020. REUTERS/Diego Vara/File Photo

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Labor prosecutors called on Thursday for meatpacker JBS SA to suspend work at a plant in southern Brazil and test employees there for COVID-19 after an investigation into an outbreak at the plant, according to court documents.

Prosecutors in the state of Rio Grande do Sul asked a judge to order “the immediate removal, with pay, of all employees and outsourced workers” at a chicken processing facility in the town of Garibaldi, according to a filing reviewed by Reuters.

The plant has 230 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including seven hospitalizations and one fatality, prosecutors told the court, citing data from local health services. More than 900 people work in the facility, according to prosecutors.

JBS, the world’s largest meatpacker, did not comment on the Garibaldi case, saying it has not been notified. The company has repeatedly defended its safety protocols and response to COVID-19 outbreaks at plants in Brazil.

A string of COVID-19 outbreaks at JBS plants in at least five states has threatened exports and disrupted operations as facilities were temporarily shut in three states.

Reporting by Ana Mano; editing by Richard Pullin