March 11 - 22, 2024
2 inquiries
3 replies

Email sent to Simon Wauthier, Membership Officer, and Caroline Brachet, Senior Marketing & Communication Manager, at Amfori.

The email said: "For several months, we have been conducting an investigation of the shrimp company, Choice Canning. Choice Canning passed a social audit conducted by Intertek in December 2022 under Amfori’s BSCI Code of Conduct. 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. 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 Amfori:

  1. While we understand that you might not be aware of any of the above issues, does Amfori have any comment or statement to make in response to this email?
  2. We understand that the Amfori did not conduct the social audit at Choice Canning in Andhra Pradesh, but that the audit was carried out under Amfori’s BSCI Code of Conduct. What systems or processes does Amfori have in place to verify that audits carried out under its auditing standards do indeed meet the required standards?
  3. How does Amfori investigate allegations that a processor that passed under Amfori’s standards has taken steps to mislead auditors by, for example, temporarily moving a portion of the workforce off-site for the duration of the audit?

Please let us know your answers to these 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."

Kathy Roussel, Head of Advocacy and Engagement, replied for Amfori: "First of all, we would like to thank you for your email and sharing your concerns and investigation findings with us. From what you describe, we understand that your investigation has uncovered concrete evidence of serious unethical behaviours in a specific site where the shrimp company Choice Canning, operates. We are taking this very seriously. At amfori, we have an investigation protocol in place to assess allegations and complaints.

In order to start that process, we will need to have further clarification. Therefore, we would be grateful if you could share with us the exact location and unit you are referring to, including, if possible, an OSH identification number. Rest assured that we are committed to investigating the issues raised from the moment you share the missing piece of information.

In the meantime, we refer for more detailed information about amfori BSCI to the System Manual publicly available on our website.

Should you have any further questions, do not hesitate to reach out to us."

The Outlaw Ocean Project replied: "Thank you for your email, we appreciate Amfori’s engagement with our reporting. The address is:,5,3/1,2,3,4,4, Pothukuru (V), Magam Road, Ainavilli (M) Andhra Pradesh, 533577 India"

Kathy Roussel, Head of Advocacy and Engagement, replied for Amfori: "Thank you for sharing. We will dive into this and get back to you within max a week time."

Kathy Roussel, Head of Advocacy and Engagement at Amfori, emailed: "As promised, I am getting back to you with additional elements regarding the Choice Canning Company unit III. But first, thank you for the opportunity to respond and clarify our position on this case. We support your mission to advance human and labour rights and supply chain transparency. At amfori, we are committed to deliver solutions and tools that support and encourage our members’ due diligence journey.

What you report are, indeed, serious allegations. Some of them could be considered as a breach of the amfori’s Zero Tolerance Protocol (see our Guide 5 ). In that sense, we take the situation very seriously. Supply chains free of forced labour, bonded labour or compulsory labour are among the core labour rights that amfori members and their suppliers commit to in adhering to the amfori BSCI Code of Conduct.

With more than 30 000 audits going through our system each year, the integrity of monitoring activities is of the utmost importance. We acknowledge that any social audit system has limitations. To this end, the amfori BSCI Audit Quality Programme looks at how our auditing partners comply with the amfori BSCI Code of Conduct from the head office level down to the individual auditor level. Furthermore, we regularly engage with stakeholders, including those who may have assessments on situations that differ from audit results.

In accordance with our quality and auditor qualification programmes, auditors conducting social audits under the amfori BSCI Code of Conduct must meet two requirements. First, they need to pass a 5-day auditor training provided by training institutions accredited by amfori. Secondly, we require that our selected auditing companies are members of the Association of Professional Social Compliance Auditors (APSCA) and that their social auditors are all APSCA certified. APSCA certified auditors are skilled and knowledgeable in the area of social compliance and must meet high standards of social compliance auditing.

Social audits carried out under the amfori BSCI Code of Conduct help our members to capture the social risks and performance of a site production within their supply chain by covering 13 performance areas. They are not a standard nor a qualification or certification system. Social audits under the amfori BSCI system assess the effectiveness of a social management system based on two elements: holistic approach and triangulation method. The holistic approach means that it is the auditors’ responsibility to verify everything they can when observing the site production. Triangulation method is the need for auditors to cross-verify multiple sources (e.g. worker interviews, documents and site observations) in their efforts to compile satisfactory evidence and reach their professional judgement.

That being said, social audits are one tool in the amfori toolbox and provide a snapshot of the situation at a certain point in time. They can only help with improving labour standards when supplemented with other effective human rights due diligence tools. Our members are responsible for deciding which suppliers are audited based on their prioritization strategy and risk based due diligence. We encourage them not to rely solely on audits conducted at site level but to use additional due diligence tools to obtain a better understanding of the situation in the site production from which they source.

At amfori, we are constantly working on improving the offer of our Due Diligence toolbox in order to support our members across the globe to operate responsibly. We recently developed a supply chain grievance mechanism (Speak for Change) to help our members detect violations of the amfori BSCI Code of Conduct and Responsible Purchasing Practices Guidelines in their global supply chains. It has been set up to receive complaints and help workers, communities and their representatives access remedy if they believe that they have been negatively impacted by amfori members and their related site productions. amfori Speak for Change is currently active in Vietnam, Türkiye, Bangladesh and India (some regions). Our colleagues are actively working on the roll-out in additional countries (Cambodia and Pakistan in 2024). 

I would like to thank you once again for bringing your findings to our attention. Please, be assured that we are committed to investigating the situation with sincerity and urgency.

Last but not least, please, do not hesitate to contact us again if you have any further concerns."

Future correspondence will be added here as this conversation continues.