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9 Dec 2015

Nestlé lawsuit (re forced labour in Thai fishing industry)


Date lawsuit was filed
9 Dec 2015
Location of Filing: United States of America
Location of Incident: United States of America
Type of Litigation: Domestic


Nestlé Switzerland Food & beverage



In 2015, consumers filed a class action lawsuit against Nestlé in California, alleging the company had violated consumer protection laws by failing to disclose that some ingredients in its cat food may have been sourced using forced labour. The Court dismissed the lawsuit, finding a safe harbour exception which protects companies from having to disclose every instance of noncompliance.

Factual Background

The Thai seafood industry is known for subjecting migrant workers to harsh, loosely regulated working conditions. Nestlé's pet food products source fish from Thailand, and journalists and civil society noted links between these products and forced labour. Nestlé​ later conducted a yearlong investigation and released a study confirming that virtually all U.S. and European companies buying seafood from Thailand are exposed to the same risks of abuse in their supply chains.

Legal Argument

The plaintiffs, a group of consumers, alleged that Nestlé had violated consumer protection laws by failing to disclose that ingredients in its cat food products may have been sourced using forced labour.  Nestlé argued that it met its legal requirements.  Nestlé's lawyer, Daniel Herling, said elsewhere that under California’s safe harbour doctrine “all we have to do is disclose our efforts to ensure compliance, but we don’t have to disclose every single instance.”

Legal Proceedings

In August 2015, consumers filed a class action against Nestlé in California.  On 9 December 2015, the court dismissed the lawsuit, and found that the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act provides companies with a safe harbour. This means that a company only has to disclose the efforts it is making to prevent forced labour, and it is not obligated to disclose the actual risk of forced labour in its supply chain.

Latest Update

The plaintiffs have appealed the decision.

News Items:

- US court rules in favour of Nestlé in case alleging forced labour in Thailand under Transparency in Supply Chains Act, Emma Gallimore, Legal Newsline, 19 Feb 2016
- Plaintiff loses challenge to Calif. law in forced labor case over Fancy Feast, appeal to Ninth Circuit, Emma Gallimore, Legal Newsline, 27 Jan 2016
Nestlé​ admits slavery and coercion used in catching its seafood, Martha Mendoza, Associated Press, 23 Nov 2015
- Nestle Accused of Putting Fish From Slave Labor in Cat Food, Edvard Pettersson, Bloomberg Business, 27 Aug 2015

- After US lawsuit linked to cat food, Nestle says forced labor has no place in its supply chain, Associated Press, 30 Aug 2015

Hagens Berman (plaintiffs’ lawyer):
- Cat Food - Slave Labor
- Class Action Complaint for Violation of California Consumer Protection Laws, 25 Aug 2015

Court Documents

- Barber et al v. Nestlé USA, INC. and Nestlé Purina Petcare co., Cormac J. Carney, United States District Judge, 9 Dec 2015