Bay Area activists have filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that Costco is knowingly selling frozen shrimp tied to a company that uses slave labor.
Costco knows the farmed prawns it buys from Southeast Asia are linked to fishermen from Thailand who have been shackled, tortured or even murdered, activists claimed at a press conference held in Burlingame on Wednesday morning.
The lawsuit is being filed on behalf of a California resident who cites state laws that aim to prevent companies from misleading customers about illegal behavior in the supply chain.
Attorney Anne Marie Murphy said the abused workers are on the ships which get the "trash fish" that's fed to the prawns.
“Trash fish is basically dredging everything up off the ocean, near the floor, all put together, and then ground into fish meal,” Murphy said. “So the slave labor portion of the chain is on the shipping, on the ships."
The law firm cites documentary films, investigative journalism, and United Nations reports, which document the practice.
Costco responded, saying, it "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."
Human trafficking is widespread in Thailand, the world's third largest exporter of seafood.