Costco faces a lawsuit alleging it knew about slavery practices in supply chain

August 20, 2015
Business News

Costco and CP Foods face lawsuit over alleged slavery in prawn supply chain.

A California woman filed what may be the first such lawsuit against the retailer over liability for the Thai fishing industry. Three California law firms are seeking an injunction to stop the US retail chain Costco selling prawns unless they are labelled as the produce of slavery.Costco Wholesale Corp. was sued for selling farmed shrimp from Thailand, where slave labour and human trafficking in the fishing industry are widespread, and allegedly misleading U.S. consumers about it.

Retail giant Costco sells imported shrimp that were fed by slave labor in Thailand, lawyers in San Francisco charged Wednesday in a consumer lawsuit that seeks to halt the imports and demands refunds for its California customers. “California consumers care about the origins of the products they purchase,” attorneys said in the proposed statewide class-action suit in U.S. 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. District Court. “Consumers do not wish to knowingly purchase a product that is derived from, manufactured or otherwise created or made available through the use of slavery.” Costco gets its imported supply of shrimp, which it sells as frozen prawns and in wonton soup, from a Thai company, Charoen Pokhpand Foods or CP Foods, the suit said.

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, America’s most populous state. Issaquah, Washington-based Costco’s purchases of Thailand’s farmed prawns, which are fed a diet of cheap fish caught at sea with unpaid, forced labour, helps prop up an industry whose practices are ignored by local authorities, according to the complaint filed Wednesday morning. “Human suffering cannot be ignored to enhance a company’s economic bottom line,” plaintiffs’ lawyer Niall McCarthy, of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP, said in a statement. “California consumers are unknowingly supporting slave labour.” Costco spokesman Bob Nelson didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on the lawsuit. 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 (commonly called shrimp in the US) sold in leading supermarkets around the world, including the top four global retailers: Walmart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco.... (To read the entire article, please click HERE)