Big Heart Pet Brands 'deeply concerned' over slave labor allegations

By Anna Aguillard | Oct 26, 2015

LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline) – In response to a recent lawsuit that alleges Big Heart Pet Brands knowingly contracted with an overseas partner that used slave labor, a statement made by the company said that it has been conducting an "aggressive" review of all its suppliers.

“We are deeply concerned about reports alleging illegal and unethical labor practices in the international seafood industry and in particular, Southeast Asia,” said a statement issued by the company. “Big Heart Pet Brands has a zero tolerance for any labor violations, and this type of behavior is expressly prohibited by our Supplier Code of Conduct. “

The statement came in response to a federal suit filed by Jessica Hughes of Oakland, Calif., on Oct. 12. Hughes claims that Big Heart Pet Brands and its brand Meow Mix, LLC contract with overseas partners that use slave labor, particularly Thai Union Frozen Products.

Despite being unable to comment on the pending litigation, the company is openly recognizing the issue itself.

“We have been conducting a comprehensive review of all of our seafood suppliers – including visits to vendor facilities and a third-party audit – to ensure they are in compliance with our code of conduct,” the statement said.

“We recognize that a solution to this issue is the shared responsibility of everyone involved – governments, seafood processors, fishing vessel operators, and end users. We also understand and appreciate that several foreign and international agencies are undertaking investigations, and in particular Thailand has launched additional and aggressive efforts to enforce its labor laws and prevent abuses.”

Hughes accuses the defendants of using unfair and deceptive marketing to deceive consumers. She is demanding a trial by jury and is suing for restitution, an injunction to prevent the defendants from continuing to allegedly deceive consumers, and other legal fees.

She is represented by the law offices of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP in Pasadena, Calif., and Seattle.

U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Southern Division Court case number 2:15-cv-08007-CAS-AFM

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