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Nestle finds some of its food has been sourced with forced labor

Company announces reforms for its operations in Thailand

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It turns out some of the food and pet food products U.S. consumers have been buying have been produced with slave labor.

After media reports surfaced earlier this year, alleging human rights abuses in the Thailand seafood industry – including the use of forced labor – food giant Nestle said it launched an internal investigation.

Nestle said its investigators determined that some of the reports were true. It has published an action plan on seafood that comes from Thailand.

The company said the plan contains several actions designed to protect workers from abuses, improve working conditions, and tackle unacceptable practices including juvenile and teenage working.

No overnight solution

“Nestlé is committed to eliminating forced labor in our seafood supply chain in Thailand, working alongside other stakeholders to tackle this serious and complex issue,” said Magdi Batato, Nestle's executive vice-president of operations. “This will be neither a quick nor an easy endeavor, but we look forward to making significant progress in the months ahead.”

In its action plan, Nestle said it is committed to making sure its products are not associated with forced labor and announced new enforcement measures to require all suppliers to respect human rights and comply with labor laws.

Human rights pressure

Human rights activists have maintained that U.S. consumers have been purchasing products in supermarkets without knowing they were the result of slave labor. The New York Times reports Nestle faces a class action lawsuit that claims its Fancy Feast cat food has been the product of forced labor.

The admission by Nestle is likely to focus renewed conditions under which many U.S. consumer products are sourced or manufactured in foreign countries. Just this week, the human rights group China Labor Watch released its “Sweatshop Toys List,” said to catalog the abusive conditions under which many popular toys are produced.

The report detailed what it said were 29 violations, at least 21 of which violate Chinese law, in factories supplying to Hasbro, Mattel and Mattel-owned Fisher Price, McDonald’s, Jakks Pacific, Disney, NSI Toys, Battat, MGA Entertainment, and Walmart.

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