EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — American consumers are being asked to consider what products they buy from stores in an effort to combat forced labor.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has issued a withhold release order on palm oil and seafood products from two groups due to information “that reasonably indicates” the presence of forced labor indicators.
Orders to detain products from the Malaysia-based Sime Darby Plantation Berhard and the Taiwanese-based Lien Yi Hsing fishing vessel were issued by CBP this week.
Products that reach ports of entry with palm oil from the company or seafood from the fishing vessel will be detained, according to a news release from CBP.
“This withhold release order demonstrates how essential it is for Americans to research the origins of the everyday products that they purchase,” said Mark A. Morgan, CBP’s acting commissioner. “American consumers can help end modern slavery by choosing to buy products they know are ethically and humanely sourced.”
A spokesman for CBP said laborers in forced labor operations suffer from physical abuses, debt bondage, intimidation, threats, detention, and sometimes have had their travel documents taken.
Businesses using forced labor do so to produce goods under market level, which also leads to unfair competition for businesses abiding by international trade laws.
“Consumers can use economic power to say we won’t tolerate this,” said Nathan Peters, with CBP’s public affairs office.
Palm oil can be found in everyday products bought at groceries and convenience stores. The oil is used in processed foods,cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, soap and biodiesel, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.