Costco is charged in a lawsuit with ignoring the fact that much of the shrimp sold by the giant retailer is produced by slave labor in Thailand.
The federal lawsuit filed in California contends the Thai company Charoen Pokhpand Foods, or CP Foods, supplies Costco with shrimp that it sells frozen and in wonton soup. The suit claims the Asian company uses unpaid migrant workers – some of them held captive by traffickers – in the production of feed for the shrimp, reported SFGate
"California consumers care about the origins of the products they purchase," said attorneys in the proposed class-action. "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."
The lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco claims Costco purchases farmed prawns from Thailand which are fed cheap fish caught at sea with the help of forced labor. It charges that Costco's actions help prop up the industry that local authorities fail to rein in, said Bloomberg Business
"Human suffering cannot be ignored to enhance a company's economic bottom line," Niall McCarthy, of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP, said in a statement
. "California consumers are unknowingly supporting slave labor."
Attorneys said the use of unpaid labor was unlawful and unethical and Costco has the economic might to challenge the system if it so desired.
"This lawsuit seeks to give Californians confidence that they are not serving slavery for dinner," said Derek Howard, a co-lead in the lawsuit. "Costco has the clout to dictate terms to its suppliers and to enforce its policies against slave labor and human trafficking. But Costco prefers to mislead its customers and sell seafood tainted by slavery."
Costco spokesman Richard Galanti told Bloomberg Business that the retail giant was working with the Thai government and its fishing industry "to address the issues that have surfaced."
Galanti added that customers can return their Costco products for a refund if they are dissatisfied.
Bloomberg Business reported that Thailand is the third largest exporter of seafood in the world, hiring more than 650,000 people with yearly sales of $7.3 billion.
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