Nestlé SA, the Swiss transnational food and beverage company, announced this week that it will start cracking down on slavery and other human rights and labor abuses identified during a recent year-long investigation.
These abuses involve poor migrant workers from Asian countries who are reportedly sold or induced into virtual slavery to catch and process fish, which then ends up in seafood supply chains via fish farms and other manufactured products.
According to the investigation, completed by Amherst, MA-based Verité, which focusses on labor conditions related to global supply chains, such abuses are rife among Asian suppliers which provide Nestlé with raw materials for the company’s shrimp, prawns and Purina brand pet foods.
Verité looked into six production sites in Thailand; three shrimp farms, two ports of origin, and a docked fishing boat. According to the report, these were identified as being linked with the fishmeal (or fish feed) used on farms producing whole prawns for Nestlé.
Verité found indications of forced labor, trafficking and child labor, as well as deceptive recruitment and pay practices and exploitative and hazardous working conditions. Many of the fishermen were from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.
Nestlé, the largest food company in the world in terms of revenue, noted that the results of its contracted investigation indicated that any food company sourcing Thai seafood is risking the possibility of human rights abuses in their supply chains.
Nestlé admits that mitigating the situation will not be quick or easy, but the company is hoping to make significant progress in the months ahead. It has drawn up a plan to focus on 10 key activities designed to prevent suppliers from engaging in practices leading to labor and human rights abuses.
The company says it will set up a migrant workforce emergency response team with a grievance mechanism, train captains and boat owners operating in the industry, raise awareness about minimum required labor standards, establish better traceability of raw materials, and enable verification of labor standards in fishing vessels.
Nestlé also pledged to immediately implement the plan, continue activities through next year and publicly report on the progress in its annual report.
Source: Cathy Siegner, Food Safety News. Read the full article here.