British retailer pulls product on alleged slavery links

by Erica Shaffer
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LONDON – British retailer Waitrose removed its store brand of canned corned beef imported from Brazil following news reports linking the products to slave labor on Brazilian cattle farms.

The Co-op and Lidle have launched investigations into the allegations first reported by The Guardian and journalists in Brazil. The Guardian reported obtaining documents that show JBS SA, the world’s largest meat packer, paid 2 million pounds sterling between 2013 and 2016 for cattle raised on a farm in the state of Para where federal investigators allege workers were used as “modern-day slaves.” The farm owner is Antonio Jose Junqueira Vilela Filho.

In a statement, JBS denied any wrongdoing.

“JBS does not buy cattle from any farms on the Brazilian Ministry of Labor’s slave labor ‘black list,’” the company said. “The farm named in the article has never been included on the ‘black list.’ As the story correctly says, as soon as JBS became aware of irregularities in the farm’s operations in 2016, all livestock purchases from the Ana Paula Junqueira family were stopped immediately. JBS updates information about embargoed areas published by the Brazilian Environmental Agency (IBAMA) and the Ministry of Labor’s ‘black list’ on a daily basis.”

Both Waitrose and The Co-op have published detailed statements on modern-day slavery and what those companies are doing to prevent human trafficking and slavery in their supply chains as required under the UK Modern Slavery Act of 2015.

The Co-op is the UK’s largest co-operative with more than 2,700 food stores, according to The Co-op website. Waitrose, which is part of the food and retail division of the John Lewis Partnership, operates more than 350 stores.

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