Several of America’s largest retailers are selling shrimp prepared in Thailand by slave labor, including children, says a media investigation.
The investigation was carried out by the Associated Press, and it tracked shipments Thai facilities known to employ slave labor, to export companies on Thai docks, all the way to U.S. retailers selling the products.
The AP tracked the shipments using U.S. customs records which shows the shrimp moving from Thailand–one of the world’s biggest exporters of seafood products–through the supply system to such U.S. retailers as Wal-Mart, Kroger, Whole Foods, Target, Dollar General and Petco, as well as restaurants such as Red Lobster and Olive Garden.
The AP investigation found the products in all 50 states.
In response to the information most of the U.S. retailers said they would investigate their suppliers.
The AP said that customers in the U.S. have no reliable way to know if the food products they buy are made by slave labor because the supply chain is so long and because U.S. retailers don’t divulge their supply lines.
Fish products are especially insidious, according to the AP, because slaves are often forced to work on boats that sometimes don’t dock “for months or years at a time, creating floating prisons.”
The AP also suggests that American customers tell their grocery stores that they don’t want to buy products produced by slave labor in hopes that the public pressure will alter the situation.
The wire service related a long list of shrimp brand names that customers can be aware of and noted that the U.S. Department of State has blacklisted Thailand for its “dismal human rights record” but has nonetheless hesitated to impose any sanctions for that record.
According to the activist organization Human Rights Watch, Thailand’s human rights record has taken a downward trend since the 2014 military coup that took over the costal nation. The group says that Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha has refused to prosecute slavers and has even used his power to harass and prosecute those who fight against such exploitation.
The L.A. Times reported that the junta that took over the nation is coming under increasing criticism for oppressing, torturing and jailing its political opposition.
In fact, a critic of the military junta has recently “disappeared” and supporters fear the government had him murdered.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com