Published: 08/04/2013

Cheap supermarket “own label” products often come at a high price. In Thailand that can include forced labour, illegally low wages and dangerous working conditions.

Most recently that has become clear in a case of fruit juice originating in Thailand but processed through European fruit juice producers and sold as “cheaper” supermarket branded fruit juice in European supermarkets.

An exposé of the appalling conditions faced by workers At Natural Fruit (conditions that prevail widely in Thai food and agricultural industry) was published in Finland and in Thailand. The two principal European customers of the local Thai company then apparently abruptly ended the contract with the Thai company. In doing so they sought to hide from their complicity in the shameful conditions under which the local company operated and sought to wash their hands of all responsibility. That cannot be accepted.

The IUF is in the process of confirming the role played by these European producers  and will be pointing a finger directly and publicly at them. We will identify those supermarkets that ultimately marketed the juice sourced from such outrageously poor and illegal labour conditions.

These producers and their supermarket customers must assume responsibility for labour conditions from which they have profited over a long period of time. They cannot and must not be allowed to simply walk away blameless. Many of the workers concerned now find themselves in even more perilous circumstances than before with the company claiming bankruptcy and no doubt dismissing workers in large numbers.

Meanwhile the publication of the exposé itself has led to a vicious and unjustified attack by both the local Thai company and Thai authorities on the main researcher Andy Hall who has been prosecuted and faces jail time and financial ruin (to support Andy Hall click on the LabourStart campaign here).

IUF general secretary Ron Oswald made the IUF’s position clear, “This situation highlights the real price of cheap juice just as similar cases in Thailand and beyond highlight the more general challenge of the real price of cheap food. Companies in mature markets who have profited from this have now to face up to their responsibilities and engage with workers and their representatives to raise standards in their supply chain. The IUF is working to identify exactly which companies have been using pineapple concentrate from Natural Fruits and which supermarkets have been selling cheap juice as a result. Neither these processors nor the supermarkets they supply can be allowed to just walk away.”