After recent reports on the use of slave labor aboard fishing boats in Asia that catch fish that are later shipped to the US and other places to be used in pet food and livestock feed, several groups are taking action.
Nestle and Mars have been sued by consumers accusing the companies of failing to disclose the use of forced labor on boats that supply the fish they use in pet food.
And now several lawmakers are looking to address the problem. In August, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., proposed legislation aimed at increasing transparency and accountability in corporate supply chains. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., has sent a letter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to put more focus on illegal fishing and on preventing “trafficking and slavery in the fishing industry.”
Some of the fish caught on these boats is sent to a cannery called the Songkla Canning Public Company, which is a subsidiary of Thai Union Frozen Products, Thailand’s largest seafood company. According to US customs documents, more than 28 million pounds of seafood-based cat and dog food in the past year for brands sold in the US, including Iams, Meow Mix and Fancy Feast.
Thai Union Frozen Products says it “will not tolerate any human trafficking or any human rights violation of any kind,” and that it regularly audits its canneries and boats in port to ensure against forced and child labor.
Thai Union says it plans to audit all of its suppliers to check for labor abuses by December.
“Thai Union is completely committed to eradicating human trafficking in any and every part of our supply chain,” a company spokeswoman said in a report.
WASHINGTON – Federal lawmakers, State Department officials, fishing and pet food companies, and class-action lawyers are stepping up efforts to combat forced labor at sea. Last week, a group of consumers filed a class-action lawsuit in California against Mars, accusing the company, among the biggest producers of seafood-based pet food in the world, of failing to disclose its dependence on forced labor.
By Lindsay Beaton
As work continues on creating a new nutrition label that focuses on simplifying information for consumers, challenges remain.
By Tang Yu