The U.S. government has banned the import of palm oil by a Malaysian producer over forced labor concerns.
Announcing the ban, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said it will detain palm oil and palm oil products made by FGV Holdings Berhad and its subsidiaries and joint ventures at all U.S. ports.
CBP’s Office of Trade directed the issuance of a Withhold Release Order (WRO) against FGV based on information that indicates the use of forced labor, including physical and sexual violence, withholding of wages, abusive working and living conditions, and excessive overtime.
CBP said it issued the order based on findings of a year-long investigation that revealed forced labor indicators in the company.
“The use of forced labor in the production of such a ubiquitous product allows companies to profit from the abuse of vulnerable workers,” said Brenda Smith, Executive Assistant Commissioner of CBP’s Office of Trade. “These companies are creating unfair competition for legitimately sourced goods and exposing the public to products that fail to meet ethical standards,” she added.
The top official made it clear that “CBP will continue to remind Americans that we can use our economic power to tell companies that we will not tolerate forced labor in U.S. supply chains.”
A publicly-listed global agricultural and agri-commodities company, FGV accounts for about 15 percent of Malaysia’s annual production of crude palm oil.
Palm oil is a common ingredient in U.S. consumer products such as processed foods, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, soap and biodiesel.
Federal statute 19 U.S.C. 1307 prohibits the importation of goods produced with forced labor.
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