Albertsons drops High Liner products after supplier is implicated in forced labor exposé

The headquarters of High Liner Foods.

Albertsons Companies, which operates ACME, Safeway, and Shaw’s Supermarket, has dropped flounder and yellowtail sole products from High Liner Foods in the wake of a bombshell Outlaw Ocean report implicating one of the seafood company’s suppliers China-based suppliers employed forced labor from China's ethnic Uyghur minority.

Per the Outlaw Ocean Project’s “Discussion” resource, which outlines the project’s communications with 312 separate stakeholders as part of its investigation, Albertsons Director of External Communications Sarah Holland told the project that the company has ceased all purchases of both flounder and yellowtail sole.

“Our decision to stop purchases of flounder and yellowtail sole from High Liner Foods applies to all of our company’s retail banners including Albertsons, Shaw’s, ACME, and Safeway,” Holland said. “We will not be pulling the current flounder and yellowtail sole product from shelves. The product is safe for consumption and consciously discarding it would increase food waste going to landfills, another important issue.”

In a separate statement sent to SeafoodSource, Holland confirmed the company’s decision to stop carrying the two products from High Liner Foods.

“We have made the decision to stop purchases of flounder and yellowtail sole from High Liner Foods,” Holland said.

Holland said High Liner has confirmed the origins of all other products that it sources form High Liner Foods in China, and is partnering with verified third-party auditors and FishWise to conduct unannounced audits of the fisheries and production facilities in China that produce the products in question. After the investigation, the company will determine what actions to take on both the other products and High Liner’s flounder and yellowtail sole products.

“At the conclusion of our investigation, we will reevaluate our position,” she said.

Holland said High Liner is committed to traceability in its supply chains. 

“We expect our suppliers to adopt and comply with comprehensive, transparent and verifiable supply chains that are free of human trafficking and forced labor,” she said.

High Liner Foods Vice President of Corporate Communications Jennifer Bell confirmed to SeafoodSource the the company has cut ties with Yantai Sanko Fisheries, one of the companies implicated in the Outlaw Ocean Report. Per communications between Outlaw Ocean and High Liner, the company said it took allegations seriously and immediately launched an investigation, and that the company had been successfully audited in September 2022 by a third-party auditor using the SMETA social audit standard.

“After hearing of the allegations brought forward by Outlaw Ocean, High Liner had Yantai Sanko audited again in August 2023, finding no evidence in either audit of the use of forced labor,” Bell told SeafoodSource.

Despite the positive audit, the company said it is still cutting ties with the company following the Outlaw Ocean report.

“Out of an abundance of caution, and in light of the concerning evidence and allegations included in this article, we are no longer doing business with Yantai Sanko Fisheries,” Bell said.

Bell said the company had no further comment on the issue at this time, and could not give detail on the volume of business the company did with Yantai Sanko Fisheries, but confirmed that the company is taking steps to minimize any disruptions.

“High Liner Foods is working with alternate suppliers to ensure that we minimize the impact on our supply chain,” she said.  

Photo courtesy of High Liner Foods


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