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A sign outside a Smithfield Foods pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

A House panel is launching an investigation into meatpacking giants JBS, Tyson Foods and Smithfield Foods regarding the coronavirus outbreaks at their plants — plus OSHA's oversight of industry working conditions.

Why it matters: It's among the first congressional inquiries into the meatpacking industry and the spread of the coronavirus among its front-line workers — which researchers say also impacted surrounding communities.

Between the lines: The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, led by Rep. James Clyburn, also says OSHA did not do enough under the Trump administration in response to the outbreaks at the plants.

  • Other Democratic lawmakers have called out OSHA for a tepid response to outbreaks within meatpacking plants.

Catch up quick: Meatpacking plants were an early epicenter for coronavirus outbreaks, causing some plants to temporarily shut down.

  • In letters requesting documents from OSHA, JBS, Tyson Foods and Smithfield Foods, Clyburn says 54,000 workers across 569 plants got the coronavirus — and 270 of those workers have died.

What they're saying: JBS has "implemented hundreds of safety measures including constructing permanent physical barriers, establishing physical distancing protocols, and installing hospital-grade ventilation systems in all of our facilities," company spokesperson Cameron Bruett said in a statement to Axios.

  • Smithfield says it met "federal, state and local health and safety guidance" from early in the pandemic, noting that it looks forward to providing the House panel with "correct information" about the safety measures it took, Keira Lombardo, the company's chief administrative officer, said in a statement.
  • Tyson says it invested over a half-billion dollars during the pandemic "to transform our U.S. facilities with protective measures," Gary Mickelson, a Tyson Foods spokesperson, said in a statement. (Shares of Tyson Foods fell slightly on the news.)
  • Representatives at OSHA did not return a request for comment.

Go deeper

Instagram's boss faces Congress' questions on harm to teens

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for WIRED

The head of Instagram will find himself in Congress' crosshairs for the first time Wednesday in the one area lawmakers have shown they are willing to pass tech regulations — protecting youngsters online.

Why it matters: Republicans and Democrats have found common ground in grilling tech companies on how their products harm children, especially after revelations in The Wall Street Journal about Instagram's potential harm to the mental health of teen girls.

Jan. 6 committee to start contempt proceedings against Meadows

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

The Jan. 6 select committee plans to move forward with contempt proceedings against former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows for his refusal to comply with the panel's subpoena.

Why it matters: The committee has used the threat of contempt — and the associated financial and reputational costs — to try to ensure evasive witnesses sit for their depositions.

Complaint to FTC: Amazon search results full of potentially deceiving ads

Photo: Nigel Kirby/Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Amazon does not sufficiently distinguish between its search results and paid ads, potentially "deceiving millions of consumers," according to a complaint filed to the Federal Trade Commission.

Why it matters: Joan Moriarty, research director for the Strategic Organizing Center, a coalition of labor unions that filed the complaint, told the Washington Post the group is "very hopeful" that the FTC will investigate the complaint because Lina Khan (D), a known Amazon critic, is now chair.