Consumers sue U.S. wholesaler, Thai company over slave labor
A U.S. resident is suing both a major wholesaler in the United States and one of Thailand’s largest seafood producers over shrimp she claims is connected to human slavery.
Monica Sud, described in legal documents as a resident of California, has filed suit in a U.S. District Court against Costco Wholesale Corporation and Thailand’s CP Foods. In it, Sud accuses CP Foods of knowingly using slave labor to produce shrimp, and Costco of knowingly selling products produced by forced labor.
The lawsuit is classified as a class-action – Sud said she represents “All persons and entities residing in California that, from at least 2011, through the present purchased frozen (or previously frozen) Thai farmed prawn products in the United States from Costco Wholesale Corporation.” While the lawsuit does not specify a dollar figure, it seeks “restitution” for anyone who has purchased shrimp from Costco that was supplied by CP Foods.
“Costco is aware that the farmed prawns it purchases from Southeast Asian producers, including Defendant CP Foods, and then resells to California consumers, is derived from a supply chain that depends upon documented slavery, human trafficking and other illegal labor abuses,” Sud’s attorney, Derek Howard, wrote in the suit.
A large portion of the lawsuit is dedicated to descriptions of human trafficking and abusive working environments in the Thai fishing industry. The suit cites multiple reports and images from both the activist group Environmental Justice Foundation and various mainstream media investigations.
The suit, which describes CP Foods as “a many-tentacled global conglomerate,” accused Costco of not being truthful about the potential ties between its shrimp products and forced labor.
“Under this veil of silence, the tainted supply chain which starts with Defendant CP Foods, ultimately leads directly to the California shelves of Costco, and unwittingly onto the dinner plates of millions of Californians,” Howard wrote in the suit.
Costco, in a statement about the lawsuit to the U.K. newspaper the Guardian, said “Allegations concerning issues in the Thai seafood industry have been well publicized for over one year. Costco Wholesale has been working with and will continue to work with various stakeholders (including the Thai government, other retailers, and Thai industry) to address the issues that have surfaced. In the meantime, all of our customers know that if they are dissatisfied with any purchase from Costco Wholesale they can return the item for a full refund.”