Orlando, Fla. (AP) – Red Lobster is getting a $575 million investment from a Thai seafood exporter of shrimp that The Associated Press found last year came from supply chains tainted by slavery.
A joint statement by the companies Monday says Thai Union Group wants to build a direct-to-consumers channel by investing in Orlando-based Red Lobster, which has more than 700 locations in the United States and Canada. Golden Gate Capital, a private equity firm based in San Francisco, remains Red Lobster’s majority owner.
Thai Union’s president promised changes after the AP found the seafood company was shipping shrimp that may have included shrimp peeled by enslaved migrant workers. Among those receiving shrimp from Thai Union were Red Lobster and other buyers.
The AP reported last year that Red Lobster said it had been assured by Thai Union that their shipments were clean. Thai Union, meanwhile, said the shrimp it purchased from the peeling sheds using slave labor that the AP tracked did not go to major U.S. companies, while declining to say where it went.
In any case, according to U.S. and United Nations standards, if even a single piece of shrimp coming from a company is tied to forced labor, it taints the entire supply chain.
Thai Union vowed to spend millions of dollars to end its reliance on contractors responsible for much of the labor abuse, and process all its shrimp in-house. Since then, the company has opened a large, clean, peeling warehouse in Thailand where 1,200 workers get subsidized meals and opportunities for bonuses.