Costco, America’s favorite wholesale warehouse, was sued last week in California over its shrimp merchandise. Interestingly, the suit has nothing to do with the actual quality of the shrimp. Rather, the plaintiffs have some serious beef with how the shrimp were procured. According to a report from Bloomberg, Costco is being accused of selling shrimp farmed through slave labor and human trafficking in Thailand. According to the complaint, Costco purchases Thai shrimp, which are fed a diet of cheap fish caught at sea through unpaid, forced labor, and, thus, such purchases help fuel the inhumane industry. The lawsuit, which seeks class status to represent all California customers of Costco shrimp, alleges that the retail giant misleads consumers into believing that it does not tolerate human trafficking and slavery in its supply chain. The plaintiffs seek to compensate the purchasers of the shrimp products and an injunction preventing it from selling the shrimp and requiring Costco to disclose those products with a tainted supply chain. The case is Sud v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 15-cv-03783, (N.D.Ca. 2015).
Costco has responded that these allegations have been well-publicized for over a year. A previous investigation by Britain’s Guardian newspaper found that Costco supplier, Charoen Pokphand (CP) Foods, was buying fishmeal to feed its shrimp from some suppliers that owned, operated, or bought from fishing boats manned with slaves. CP Foods has since tightened up its regulations. Likewise, Costco has been working with the Thai government to shore up the supply chain and has offered dissatisfied customers full refunds.
We here at Abnormal Use certainly do not condone slavery or human trafficking. It sounds like Costco doesn’t either (at least now). Notwithstanding this lawsuit, it at least appears that steps are now being taken to right the ship.
What Costco knew about the tainted supply chain and when they knew it, we do not know. Certainly, those two questions would go along away to determining the merit of this suit. Nonetheless, we question what this proposed class of Costco customers really seeks to gain out of all of this? Refunds? Costco has already agreed to that. Cleaning up the tainted supply chain? Costco is already working on that as well. At this point, the only people who have really been damaged are those individuals forced into slavery in the first place. Unfortunately, they are the only ones who won’t profit from this lawsuit.