Fri, Aug 21, 2015 - Page 14 News List

Costco, CP Foods to face prawn ‘slavery’ lawsuit

TAINTED SHRIMP:A class action lawsuit filed in the US seeks an injunction to prevent the sale of prawns from a Thai supplier that do not have warning labels

The Guardian

Three California law firms are seeking an injunction to stop US retail chain Costco Wholesale Co selling prawns unless they are labeled as the produce of slavery.

The firms have filed a class action lawsuit against Costco and its Thai seafood supplier, alleging that Costco knowingly sold prawns from a supply chain tainted by slavery.

The claim, lodged in the federal court in San Francisco on Wednesday, alleges that Costco has for several years bought and resold farmed prawns from the leading Thai food group Charoen Pokphand Foods PCL (CP Foods), and other companies, which have sourced the raw material for their feed from ships manned by slaves.

The plaintiff in the class action is a California resident, Monica Sud, who has bought prawns from the membership-based wholesale grocer, but the class action potentially affects millions of customers in California, the US’ most populous state.

The action follows a Guardian investigation last year that tracked the complex prawn supply chain and reports by the UN and non-governmental organizations, including the Environmental Justice Foundation, that human trafficking for forced labor and slavery have become endemic in the Thai fishing sector.

The investigation established that large numbers of men who were bought and sold like animals and held against their will on fishing boats off Thailand were integral to the production of farmed prawns sold in leading supermarkets around the world, including the top four global retailers: Wal-Mart Stores Inc, Carrefour SA, Costco and Tesco PLC.

The investigation found that the world’s largest prawn farmer, CP Foods, was buying fishmeal, which it feeds to its farmed prawns, from some suppliers that owned, were operating or buying from fishing boats manned by slaves.

Men who have managed to escape from boats feeding in to the supply chain of CP Foods and other companies like it told of horrific conditions, including 20-hour shifts, regular beatings, torture and execution-style killings. Some were at sea for numerous years and some had seen fellow slaves murdered in front of them.

“This lawsuit seeks to give Californians confidence that they are not serving slavery for dinner,” said Derek Howard of the Howard Law Firm in Mill Valley and co-lead counsel in the California lawsuit. “Slavery in the Thai industry is a huge problem. Costco has the clout to dictate terms to its suppliers and sub-suppliers and enforce its policies against slave labor.”

The defendants have 30 days to file a defense.

The Guardian has approached both Costco and CP Foods for comment on the legal action.

Following the Guardian report last year, Costco said at the time that it would require its “suppliers of Thai shrimp to take corrective action to police their feedstock sources.”

Its code of practice says it does not tolerate human trafficking or slavery in its supply chains.

CP Foods said last year that it condemned all trafficking and slavery in the strongest possible terms.

Other retailers identified as part of the supply chain also told the Guardian that they condemned all forms of slavery and were part of specific programs to address the issue in the Thai fishing sector.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top