“Parents and children worked together, peeling farmed shrimp in a warehouse that had overflowing toilets and the stench of sewage. The peelers often work 16-hour days for little or no pay, as company monitors watch to prevent them from escaping.” — The Associated PressThe Associated Press and the British newspaper The Guardian have done extensive reporting on the squalid conditions under which farm-raised shrimp â sold by the largest U.S. supermarket chains and chain restaurants in all 50 states â is produced in Thailand.âGetty Images/Paula Bronstein
You might think about that less-than-appetizing description the next time you buy shrimp at the supermarket or order it in a restaurant. It’s just another example of the ongoing shortcomings of importing foods from countries where working, production, and health standards are vastly different from what we’ve come to take for granted in the U.S.
The Associated Press and the British newspaper The Guardian have done extensive reporting on the squalid conditions under which farm-raised shrimp — sold by the largest U.S. supermarket chains and chain restaurants in all 50 states — is produced in Thailand, one of the world’s largest exporters of seafood, to the tune of an estimated $7 billion annually.
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Sanitary conditions aside, the reports document the plight of shrimp peelers, including children, that amounts to outright slavery. If these conditions existed in the U.S., there would be a tsunami of criticism, boycotts, and demands that something be done.
The Thai government has labeled the reports untrue, and U.S. companies that buy Thai shrimp say they have assurances their supplies don’t come from suppliers cited by the news organizations. But without on-site inspection, verification of health and labor conditions, and labeling of food to attest to acceptable standards, the U.S. consumer is pretty much buying blind.Shrimpers from gulf states such as Louisiana, Texas, Alabama and Florida are facing increased difficulty surviving due to imported, farm raised shrimp from Thailand, Vietnam and other countries that are being imported into the U.S. market.âGetty Images/Sandy Huffaker
It’s another of the deals with the devil we’ve accepted for decades in order to get something cheaper — whether shoes, clothing, catfish, shrimp, electronics, or you-name-it, the end result has been millions of U.S. jobs lost to low wage countries where goods, and foods, are produced under often dubious circumstances, and an element of uncertainty about the food we put on our tables or order in restaurants.
Domestic shrimp, catfish, and other seafood products may cost more, but there is reasonable assurance that they are of good quality and are safe. Carefully examine package labels. “Farm raised” is not the same as “U.S. farm raised.” Ask in restaurants about the source of the seafood you’re thinking of ordering. Know what you’re buying ... and eating.