Nestlé accused in US of ‘slave labour’ cat food

UPDATED: Swiss-based food giant Nestlé on Friday rejected allegations that it had knowingly allowed its Fancy Feast cat food to contain fish from a Thai supplier suspected of using slave labour.

Nestlé accused in US of 'slave labour' cat food
Nestlé headquarters in Vevey in the canton of Vaud. Photo: Nestlé

“Forced labour has no place in our supply chain,” the company told AFP in an email.
On Thursday, pet food buyers filed a class action lawsuit in US federal court in Los Angeles seeking to represent all California consumers of Fancy Feast claiming they would not have purchased the product had they known it had ties to slave labour.
The lawsuit said that Nestlé works with Thai Union Frozen Products PCL to import more than 28 million pounds (13 million kilograms) of seafood-based pet food for top brands sold in the United States, and it alleged that some of the ingredients in those products came from slave labour.
Men and boys, often trafficked from Myanmar and Cambodia, are sold to fishing boat captains who need crews aboard their ship, the complaint said, alleging that many were working 20-hour shifts with little or no pay and facing beatings or even death if the work is deemed unsatisfactory.
The Vevey-based food giant countered that it required “all of our suppliers to respect human rights and to comply with all applicable labour laws.”
The company acknowledged, however, that enforcing its strict code of conduct throughout the complex, multi-layered supply-chain in the Thai seafood industry that supplies some ingredients for its products was a challenge.
“The elimination of forced labour in our seafood supply chain is a shared responsibility and we are committed to working with global and local stakeholders to tackle this serious and complex issue,” Nestle said.
It said that for the past year it had been working with the independent supply chain consultancy Achilles to try to get a better overview of the different levels in the chain.
And Nestlé also said it had partnered with the non-governmental organization Verite, which was collecting information from fishing vessels, mills and farms in Thailand and from ports across Southeast Asia “to identify where and why forced labour and human rights abuses may be taking place.”
The company vowed to publish the key findings of the study and present a clear plan of action by the end of the year.

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‘Unlimited resources’: Switzerland’s Nestle goes vegan

Swiss food giant Nestle, which has made billions with dairy products, said Monday it will host start-ups that want to develop vegetarian alternatives.

'Unlimited resources': Switzerland's Nestle goes vegan

Nestle could thus find itself at the forefront of a sector that has strong growth potential, an analyst commented.

It plans to open its research and development (R&D) centre in Konolfingen, Switzerland to “start-ups, students and scientists” a statement said.

In addition to testing sustainable dairy products, the group plans to encourage work on plant-based dairy alternatives, it added.

Chief executive Mark Schneider was quoted as saying that “innovation in milk products and plant-based dairy alternatives is core to Nestle's portfolio strategy.”

The group unveiled a vegetable-based milk that had already been developed with the process, and technical director Stefan Palzer told AFP it planned to focus on 100-200 such projects a year.

Jon Cox, an analyst at Kepler Cheuvreux, noted that while Nestle had missed some consumer trends in the past, it has now “taken something of a lead in the plant-based alternative market for food”.

And “given its pretty much unlimited resources, Nestle is going to come out one of the winners in the space,” Cox forecast in an e-mail.

Nestle said that “internal, external and mixed teams” would work at the R&D centre over six-month periods.

Nestle would provide “expertise and key equipment such as small to medium-scale production equipment to facilitate the rapid upscaling of products for a test launch in a retail environment,” it added.

The Swiss food giant has long been known for its dairy products, but faced a boycott in the 1970s for allegedly discouraging mothers in developing countries from breastfeeding even though it was cheaper and more nutritious than powdered formula.

On Monday, the group's statement also underscored that the research initiative was part of its commitment to help fight global warming.

“As a company, we have set ambitious climate goals. This is part of our promise to develop products that are good for you and good for the planet,” it said.