United Kingdom


March 11 - 19, 2024
1 inquiry
2 replies

Email sent to media and inquiries email addresses for BRCGS.

The email said: "For several months, we have been conducting an investigation of the shrimp company, Choice Canning. Choice Canning passed an audit conducted by SGS for Brand Reputation Compliance Global Standards (BRCGS) certification in November 2023. 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 BRCGS:

  1. While we understand that you might not be aware of any of the above issues, does BRCGS have any comment or statement to make in response to this email?
  2. We understand that the BRCGS itself did not conduct the audit at Choice Canning in Andhra Pradesh. What systems or processes does BRCGS have in place to verify that audits carried out under its auditing standards do indeed meet the required standards?
  3. What steps does BRCGS take upon receiving allegations that auditors conducting an audit under BRCGS standards have produced contradictory documentation about the same site within the same timeframe?

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."

BRCGS sent an auto-response acknowledging receipt of the query.

BCRGS replied: "Please find to follow the BRCGS response to your recent media enquiry.

BRCGS statement

Brand Reputation Compliance Global Standards (BRCGS) was founded in 1996 and is a world-leading global brand that helps build confidence in the food and beverage supply chain.

Whilst the BRCGS Global Standard for Food Safety provides a framework to assist manufacturers in meeting legal and customer requirements for food safety, BRCGS does not undertake the audits itself. Audits are undertaken by approved certification bodies (CBs) around the world. These certification bodies are independently accredited by a National Accreditation Body to ensure they are auditing effectively against the relevant Global Standard. Rules and guidelines are laid down detailing the responsibilities of the certification body and auditors, and adherence to these rules is monitored.

BRCGS has a comprehensive integrity programme in place to help ensure the consistency of high-quality audits and corresponding audit reports. This is supported by a formal complaints process where the nature of the complaint is assessed, and appropriate action taken. This can include audit of the certification body, witness of the auditor or visit to the certificated site as part of an investigation.

Our global standards are used by over 30,000 certificated suppliers in more than 130 countries around the world and have played a significant role in assisting food manufacturers in the production of safe food for the past 25 years."

Future correspondence will be added here as this conversation continues.