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10 Jul 2023

Kenya: Security guards at Del Monte pineapple farm supplying UK supermarkets accused of assaults, killings & rapes of supposed trespassers

In June 2023, a joint investigation by the Guardian and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism uncovered allegations of serious violence carried out by security guards at a Del Monte pineapple farm in Kenya, which covers around 40 sq km and has public roads going through it. Guards are accused of using excessive force against supposed trespassers onto the Del Monte land resulting in brutal assaults and killings, with some alleged victims saying they were indiscriminately attacked by guards while travelling on public roads through or near Del Monte land. The farm is the largest exporter of Kenyan produce to the world, and supplies pineapple to major supermarkets in the UK, including Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Ocado and Morrisons.

A spokesperson for Fresh Del Monte told the Guardian: “We take these allegations extremely seriously and have instituted a full and urgent investigation into them. The conduct alleged in these cases is in clear violation of Fresh Del Monte’s longstanding commitment to human rights and the comprehensive policies and procedures we have in place to ensure our operations respect the dignity of all individuals.

“Our proactive investigations continue and will be supported by an independent review by a specialist human rights consultancy. We continue to fully support the Kenyan authorities’ investigations, including into the death of John Rui Karia. We are committed to constant improvements in the way we operate to adhere to the highest international human rights standards in all our businesses.”

A Tesco spokesperson said: “We are shocked and appalled to learn of these allegations on Del Monte’s Thika farm in Kenya. We have therefore taken the decision to immediately suspend Del Monte fruit products sourced from this farm pending a thorough and credible investigation into these claims.

“Any form of human rights abuse is clearly unacceptable and we expect our suppliers to protect the welfare of everyone working in our supply chains, as well as respecting the human rights of the communities in which they operate.”

Waitrose said it expected all its suppliers to comply with its strict ethical standards and was liaising closely with Del Monte to determine what actions it has been taking. It welcomed the company’s commissioning of an independent review to investigate the allegations.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited the remaining companies to respond. Sainsbury’s, Asda, and Morrisons responded, their responses are available below. Ocado referred us to a statement by the British Retail Consortium.

The British Retail Consortium shared the following statement with us, attributed to Sophie De Salis, Sustainability Policy Advisor at the British Retail Consortium: “We welcome Del Monte’s investigation into these appalling allegations to delve deeper into the broader context of these crimes and commitment to constant improvements in working practices. Protecting the welfare of workers and respecting communities in supply chains is fundamental to our members' sourcing practices and any practices falling short of our high standards are not tolerated.”

More information is available below.

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