Cat food consumers in California filed a class action lawsuit last Thursday saying that they would not have purchased Nestle’s Fancy Feast cat food if they had known that the product had ties to slave labor.
“By hiding this from public view, Nestlé has effectively tricked millions of consumers into supporting and encouraging slave labor on floating prisons,” said the lawyer for the group as reported by Bloomberg.
Nestlé replied by saying that "forced labor has no place in our supply chain," as reported by The Associated Press. In an email to the news organization, Nestle didn't deny the allegations but said its guidelines require suppliers to respect human rights.
The lawsuit said that Nestlé works with Thai Union Frozen Products PCL to import more than 28 million pounds of seafood-based pet food for top brands sold in the United States, and it alleged that some of the ingredients in those products came from slave labor.
Men and boys, often trafficked from Myanmar and Cambodia, are sold to fishing boat captains who need crews aboard their ship, the complaint said, alleging that many were working 20-hour shifts with little or no pay and facing beatings or even death if the work is deemed unsatisfactory.
AFP reported that Nestlé acknowledged that enforcing its strict code of conduct throughout the complex, multi-layered supply-chain in the Thai seafood industry that supplies some ingredients for its products was a challenge.
"The elimination of forced labor in our seafood supply chain is a shared responsibility, and we are committed to working with global and local stakeholders to tackle this serious and complex issue," Nestle told AFP. It said that for the past year it had been working with the independent supply chain consultancy Achilles to try to get a better overview of the different levels in the chain.
And Nestlé also said it had partnered with the non-governmental organization Verite, which was collecting information from fishing vessels, mills and farms in Thailand and from ports across Southeast Asia "to identify where and why forced labor and human rights abuses may be taking place. "The company vowed to publish the key findings of the study and present a clear plan of action by the end of the year.