Major Australian supermarkets Thai Union supplier shrimp linked to human rights abuses

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 16th December 2015

Australian supermarkets giants have confirmed they source seafood from a company implicated in the usage of indentured slave labourers for prawn peeling.


Coles, Woolworths and Aldi supermarkets have each confirmed that they have sourced seafood from major seafood supplier Thai Union. A report by Associated Press lead to Thai Union being accused of slave-like conditions at prawn peeling factories, including bonded and child labour.


While rival supermarket group IGA said they do not use Thai Union as a major prawn supplier, they could not rule out that Thai Union products would not be present in products supplied to IGA stores.


Thai Union is a huge supplier of seafood and other products internationally, with many restaurants and retailers across Australia, the US, Europe and Asia being found sourcing products from the company.


The Associated Press report revealed workers at Gig Peeling Factory, owned by Thai Union, were  subjected to severe human rights abuses and slave-like working conditions.



Coles issued a statement confirming the supermarket sourced prawns from Thai Union via an Australian Agent. Coles denied that its prawns come from the particular factory implicated in the Associated Press report and said that most of Coles’ fresh prawns stocked came from Australian sources. Coles stated it had initiated an investigation of its supply chain.



Aldi said it does not source prawns from Thai Union but does sell canned tuna, canned chicken and canned salmon from the supplier.


“If ALDI is notified of any issues within the supply chain, we will investigate and act swiftly to address any situation that does not meet our high standards and supplier terms and conditions,” Aldi’s media statement said.



Woolworths stated that “Thai Union is one of our suppliers as they are to most large western retailers and brands. We will investigate this further with our supplier and seek advice from our NGO partners.”


Non-traceability of supply chain to raise Australian government concerns?

Reports have suggested that the product must undergo labour-intensive peeling and cleaning and that this makes supply chains “complex” and “not easily traceable”.


The shrimps are said to be mixed with different batches of seafood during packaging and shipping, further affecting traceability.


If, in fact, food traceability is such a great problem in the Thai seafood industry, this ought to pose serious questions about food safety as well as biosecurity concerns.  If this is the excuse given by Thai suppliers or Thai authorities, this ought to be of serious concern to Australian regulatory agencies such as the Australian Department of Agriculture which runs import control programs for Thai seafoods imported into Australia. The Department has yet to comment but may be compelled to initiate its own investigations into the traceability of Thai seafood.


Continual news reports since 2007, which have received previous publicity in a series of separate international news stories, suggest that human rights abuses are a widespread problem in the Thai seafood industry.