Ahold Delhaize (Giant, Food Lion, Hannaford, Stop&Shop)

    United States


    March 11 - 21, 2024
    2 inquiries
    2 replies

    Email sent to two contact addresses for Ahold Delhaize.

    The email said: "For several months, we have been conducting an investigation of the shrimp company, Choice Canning. We understand that Choice Canning has supplied shrimp to Ahold Delhaize supermarkets under Ahold’s own brands ‘Gold Star’ and ‘Nature’s Promise’, as well as under Choice Canning’s ‘Tastee Choice’ brand.

    Part of that investigation has involved an ongoing conversation with a former Choice Canning employee who managed a plant for the company in Andhra Pradesh, India. We began talking while they were still on staff with Choice Canning and we have continued the dialogue since they stepped down from their position with the company. This person has filed a whistleblower complaint to U.S. federal authorities.

    Through them and other channels, we have collected a variety of materials concerning Choice Canning, particularly regarding the company’s operations in Andhra Pradesh. These materials include: internal emails, WhatsApp messages, voice memos from senior management, security footage, audio recordings of meetings of Choice Canning staff, invoices from employment contractors, documentation produced by auditors for internal and external use, among other items. We have conducted an intensive review of all those materials. We have also interviewed current and former workers from the plant. We have also corroborated various findings using other documentation (including local news reports from Andhra Pradesh and industry analysis by non-governmental organizations), interviews with experts (such as shrimp industry groups and industry lawyers), and analysis of hundreds of videos taken in and around the Amalapuram plant. We also dispatched a videographer to the plant to visit one of the offsite peeling sheds and to inspect conditions at the Amalapuram compound.

    Our investigation found evidence of:

    Document falsification by Choice Canning management to mislead auditors about where it sources shrimp and the true count of employees on-site;

    Decisions by senior Choice Canning management to ship to customers in the U.S. shrimp that it knows to be antibiotic-positive;

    Contradictory documentation by SGS auditors, with SGS reports produced for Choice Canning’s internal use raising concerns about unsanitary production conditions, while SGS reports for external review raised no such issues and instead supported BRCGS and BAP certification of Choice Canning;

    Senior Choice Canning management approving the underpayment of workers, and complaints to local police by workers who did not receive payment or who received payment long after it was due;

    Choice Canning staff complaints about inadequate living conditions on-site, including worker dorms without proper bedding, or with unhygienic canteen food;

    Workers being prevented from leaving the site of their own volition;

    Choice Canning’s ongoing use of unsanitary off-site peeling sheds which it concealed from auditors;

    Understatement of the number of workers based at the plant and the temporary relocation of some of those workers when auditors visited so as to give a false picture;

    Repeated complaints from people living near Choice’s Amalapuram plant of pollution causing health problems in the community;

    “Gift” payments to local officials that some might view as bribes.

    Questions we have for Ahold Delhaize:

    1. While we understand that you might not be aware of any of the above issues, does Ahold Delhaize have any comment or statement to make in response to this email?
    2. Is Ahold Delhaize aware of any audits conducted at Choice Canning? If so, can you confirm who carried out the audit and when?

    Please let us know your responses to the above questions by close of business on March 15, 2024. Please also note that we will need for all our interactions to remain on record and in writing."

    A subsequent email was sent to Ahold Delhaize, saying: "The piece we are preparing to publish, which we believe to be in the public interest, will mention Hannaford briefly, but in no way accuses the company or any of its officers of doing anything wrong.

    We are writing, therefore, to alert Hannaford to matters uncovered by the investigation prior to publication of our article, and to offer the firm the opportunity to comment should they wish to.

    The article will highlight some concerns about the plant at Amalapuram which include: Workers being paid less than the minimum wage. Workers living on the site not being allowed to leave without permission. Internal staff communications which suggest the plant is claiming all the hatcheries it buys from are Best Aquaculture Practice (BAP)-certified, whereas in fact they are not. Apparent attempts to mislead auditors about staffing levels at the factory. The use of unaudited off-site peeling sheds. WhatsApp messages appearing to demonstrate that authorisation was given to ship shrimp that had tested positive for antibiotics (Choice Canning disputes this characterisation).

    As I said, the piece will cast no blame on Hannaford. But we wanted to give you the opportunity to provide any further response or comments should you wish to do so, which we will consider for inclusion in the piece. Please reply by 1pm ET on Monday March 18 if you would like us to do this."

    Mark Eastham Sustainable Products Lead Ahold Delhaize USA, responded to The Outlaw Ocean Project: "Thank you for making us aware of this investigation. The companies of Ahold Delhaize USA hold suppliers to high standards of engagement for product integrity, human rights, and many other areas. The standards of engagement can be found here. Based on the information you have shared, we will conduct a thorough investigation of this matter and take appropriate action, as we take these matters very seriously. If you would like to discuss the findings with us directly, please let me know and I’m happy to set that up."

    Ahold Delhaize emailed a statement to The Outlaw Ocean's publishing partner, NBC: "Ahold Delhaize USA and each of its local brands are committed to ensuring the products in our supply chain are ethically and sustainably sourced. Ahold Delhaize USA companies hold suppliers to high standards of engagement for product integrity, human rights, and many other areas. Ahold Delhaize USA companies source a very limited number of products from Choice Canning. We have been in touch with Choice Canning regarding this matter, and Choice Canning has confirmed that none of the shrimp sourced for our private brand products are processed in the Amalapuram facility in Andhra Pradesh. Ahold Delhaize USA takes this matter very seriously, is conducting a thorough investigation, and will take appropriate action, if it is determined that our standards of engagement have not been upheld."

    Future correspondence will be added here as this conversation continues.