U.K. grocery stores sell Spanish fruit tainted with modern slavery

U.K. grocery stores sell Spanish fruit tainted with modern slavery

  • Published on
    March 31, 2023
  • News Source Image
  • Category:
    Forced Labor, Supply Chain
Hero Banner

Major grocery stores in the United Kingdom are selling fruit and vegetables from Spanish farms where workers face systematic abuse, according to a new report by Ethical Consumer.

The report calls on U.K.-based retailers to take immediate action to ensure workers’ rights are protected.

Flagrant abuse on Spanish farms

Migrants working on farms in the southern provinces of Almeria and Huelva are being routinely denied eight out of nine basic workers’ rights, according to the U.K. not-for-profit cooperative. Common violations include forced labor, sexual assault, unsafe working conditions, wages below the legal minimum, excessive working hours and discrimination.

The report states:

For 20 years, migrant agricultural workers in the Almeria and Huelva regions of southern Spain have faced flagrant abuses of their basic rights. They have been refused legal wages, fired for joining unions, forced to work in unsafe conditions, shouted at for taking toilet breaks and sexually assaulted and harassed.

The report names major grocery store chains, Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Lidl, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, and Waitrose.

What can retailers do?

The significant purchasing power of these retailers gives them the potential to influence their suppliers and create real change for workers, the report argues.

However, so far, the companies have failed to take adequate action. Policies aimed at improving conditions in supply chains generally only apply to direct suppliers and voluntary schemes are failing to guarantee basic rights for farm workers.

The report makes a series of important recommendations for U.K. retailers. Eurofruit reports:

[Recommendations include] amending supply chain policies to apply workers’ rights requirements to all suppliers rather than only direct suppliers; publishing names and addresses of all supplier farms, including those beyond direct suppliers; and extending audits to suppliers throughout the supply chain for agricultural produce originating in these regions of Spain, including off-site worker interviews, ensuring that no management is present.

The report also stresses the importance of supporting the development of Worker-Driven Social Responsibility mechanisms. These systems enable workers to outline the conditions they want to see on farms for retailers to then make legally-binding commitments to only source from suppliers that meet those standards.

Raise your voice for supply chain justice

The Freedom United community is calling on U.S. Congress, U.K. Parliament, European institutions and all governments and regional blocs to pass mandatory human rights due diligence laws, so that the private and public sectors are required to take responsibility for the impact of modern slavery and all other human rights abuses across their supply chains. Join us today!


Freedom United is interested in hearing from our community and welcomes relevant, informed comments, advice, and insights that advance the conversation around our campaigns and advocacy. We value inclusivity and respect within our community. To be approved, your comments should be civil.

stop icon A few things we do not tolerate: comments that promote discrimination, prejudice, racism, or xenophobia, as well as personal attacks or profanity. We screen submissions in order to create a space where the entire Freedom United community feels safe to express and exchange thoughtful opinions.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

This week

Asylum seekers face ongoing inhumanity by U.K. government

The Rwanda Bill, discriminatory GPS tagging coupled with a raft of other inhumane legislation, all underline the U.K. government’s current uncompassionate and often brutal response to those seeking asylum at its shores. And despite ample evidence of the ruthless results these policies have led to, the government is expanding its scope and remains unapologetic. Meanwhile migrants, often fleeing violence and exploitation including modern slavery, pay the

| Wednesday May 15, 2024

Read more