Costco hit with suit over sale of farmed shrimp produced with slave labour in Thai fishing industry

August 20, 2015

Costco Wholesale Corp is facing a suit for sale of farmed shrimp from Thailand, where slave labour and human trafficking in the fishing industry were widespread.

Costco also allegedly misled US consumers about it.

A California woman filed, what could be the first such lawsuit against Costco, over liability for the Thai fishing industry.

She cited state laws that barred companies from making false claims about illegal conduct in their supply chain, including violations of human rights.

Costco's purchases of Thailand's farmed prawns, which are raised on a diet of cheap fish caught at sea with unpaid, forced labour, helped prop up an industry whose practices were ignored by local authorities, according to the complaint filed yesterday in San Francisco federal court.

''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 labor.''

According to Richard Galanti, a Costco spokeman, the retailer had been working with the Thai fishing industry and other retailers ''to address the issues that have surfaced'' over the past year.

He added, the cooperation would continue and any consumers who were dissatisfied with a Costco product ''can return the item for a full refund.''

Meanwhile, The Guardian reported that three California law firms had filed a class-action lawsuit against Costco and its Thai seafood supplier CP Foods, and were seeking an injunction to stop the company from selling shrimp unless it was labeled as a product of slavery, The Guardian reported.

According to an investigation conducted by The Guardian last year, men were regularly sold to work on fishing boats where they endured ''horrific conditions, including 20-hour shifts, regular beatings, torture and execution-style killings. Some were at sea for years and some had seen fellow slaves murdered in front of them.''

The men and their work became integral to the production of farmed shrimp, which was bought by the world's four largest retailers - Walmart, Carrefour, Tesco, and Costco.

The plaintiff in the class action suit is Monica Sud, a California resident who had bought shrimp from Costco without knowing that she had essentially been supporting slavery... (To read the entire article, please click HERE)