On Monday, a major AP investigation shook the seafood-loving public when it implicated several major American food purveyors with selling shrimp that had been peeled using slave labor in Thailand.
The list of the companies involved, as well as the scope of the labor abuses, which involved children, is staggering. For now, here’s the former:
U.S. customs records show the shrimp made its way into the supply chains of major U.S. food stores and retailers such as Wal-Mart, Kroger, Whole Foods, Dollar General and Petco, along with restaurants such as Red Lobster and Olive Garden.
It also entered the supply chains of some of America's best-known seafood brands and pet foods, including Chicken of the Sea and Fancy Feast, which are sold in grocery stores from Safeway and Schnucks to Piggly Wiggly and Albertsons. AP reporters went to supermarkets in all 50 states and found shrimp products from supply chains tainted with forced labor.
As Roberto Ferdman of The Washington Post points out, this is neither the first nor the second time in recent years a spotlight has been shone on shrimping practices in Thailand. He adds that this latest report “holds that such abuses are still rampant in the Thai shrimp industry” and chastised major markets for not “keeping shrimp peeled by modern-day slaves out of their food system.” As the AP reports, shrimp remains a key part of Thailand’s $7-billion seafood-export business.
On Tuesday, Red Lobster, which has a popular annual promotion called “Endless Shrimp,” became one of the few companies to deny buying shrimp from illicit processors. “We are confident based on our findings and assurances from Thai Union that our seafood supply was not associated with the abusive pre-processing facilities,” the company said in a statement.