Nestlé Hit With Seafood Sourcing Suit
A class action lawsuit filed Aug. 27, 2015, in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California alleges that Nestlé SA knowingly supported slave labor and human trafficking in the procurement of seafood for its Fancy Feast cat food.
The lawsuit was filed by Hagens Berman, a nine-city law firm specializing in consumer protection cases, on behalf of purchasers of Fancy Feast cat food.
The suit argues that because Nestlé shielded its customers from the truth and as a result they unwittingly supported a fishing structure that allowed human trafficking and slave labor to occur on some level.
According to the suit, the Bureau of International Labor Affairs of the United States Department of Labor confirms that fish and shrimp from Thailand are likely the product of forced labor.
Attorneys for Hagens Berman believe many customers would not have purchased Fancy Feast cat food had they known that slave labor was involved at some point in its production.
Hagens Berman is seeking reimbursement to consumers and an end to what it calls “deceptive marketing” by Nestlé.
Nestlé partners with Thailand-based Thai Union Frozen Products PCL for seafood ingredients for its pet food, and Thai Union turns a blind eye to slave labor on some of its fishing vessels, according to Hagens Berman.
According to U.S. customs documents, Thai Union has shipped more than 28 million pounds of seafood-based pet food for some of the top brands sold in the United States.
Hagens Berman is also investigating Mars Inc., which also imports fish from Thai Union for use in its Iams cat food.
Specifically, the suit states that men and boys are often trafficked from poorer countries like Cambodia and Myanmar and are sold to Thai fishing boat captains looking for crews. Those sold into bondage are forced to work off the price they were purchased for and can be forced to work shifts lasting 20 hours a day with little or no pay, with refusals to work leading to beatings and even death.
Thai Union oversees canneries, larger fishing operations and smaller fishing boats and under this pyramid structure, smaller vessels operate at great distance from any port and without oversight, attorneys contend.
“Nestlé had the resources to combat this and could have—should have—chosen not to support these egregious human rights violations,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman. “Nestlé has failed to uphold its responsibility to ensure the absence of slave labor in its supply chains—and even worse, Nestlé not only supported these human rights violations, but forced consumers to unknowingly do the same.”
News of deckhands operating Thai Union’s fishing boats working as modern-day slaves recently came to light in a New York Times article, “Sea Slaves: The Human Misery that Feeds Pets and Livestock.”
Nestlé responded in a statement: “We at Nestlé Purina agree that forced labor has no place in the supply chain. We require all of our suppliers to respect human rights and prohibit forced labor. The elimination of forced labor in Southeast Asia is a shared responsibility, and we are committed to being part of the solution.”
Consumers who have purchased Fancy Feast cat food can contact Hagens Berman at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (206) 623-7292.
Anyone interested in finding out more about the lawsuit can go to hbsslaw.com/cases-and-investigations/cases/Nestlé-and-Mars-Cat-Food-Slave-Labor.