March 11 - 14, 2024
1 inquiry
1 reply

Email sent to two media contacts at Metro.

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 Metro under Metro’s own brand ‘Irresistibiles’. 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 in Andhra Pradesh.

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 North America 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 Metro:

  1. While we understand that you might not be aware of any of the above issues, does Metro have any comment or statement to make in response to this email?
  2. Is Metro 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 18, 2024. Please also note that we will need for all our interactions to remain on record and in writing."

Stephanie Bonk, Communications Manager at Metro, emailed: "Thank you for raising the concern. We will investigate the situation regarding Choice Canning.

As previously indicated, METRO requires its suppliers to respect workers rights as outlined in our Supplier Code of conduct for responsible procurement (SCoC), which is part of our business agreement with them. We assess suppliers’ adherence to our SCoC through our partnership with Supplyshift, a cloud-based platform supported by a team of ESG experts.

METRO knows that the fishing and aquaculture industries face challenges that concern the sustainability of fish and seafood stocks, the protection of biodiversity and ecosystems, as well as working conditions. This is why we support excellent procurement practices in our fish and seafood department. Please see our Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy that covers fresh, frozen and canned fish and seafood.

We do not have any knowledge of who carried out Choice Canning’s last audit. We will continue to monitor the situation and follow up with them."

Future correspondence will be added here as this conversation continues.