Oxfam Calling on Major Supermarkets to Do More to End Human Suffering in Supply Chains

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In its new campaign, Behind the Barcodes, Oxfam shines a light on the millions of women and men trapped in poverty and facing brutal working conditions while producing the food on our supermarket shelves

In Ripe for Change, a corresponding report released today, Oxfam outlines how supermarkets, including Walmart, Kroger, Albertsons, Costco, Whole Foods and Ahold Delhaize — the parent company to US retailers such as Food Lion, Giant and Stop & Shop — are increasingly squeezing the price they pay their suppliers, despite billion-dollar profits in the food industry. This, coupled with the weakening influence of small-scale farmers and workers is causing economic exploitation, suffering, inequality and poverty, according to Oxfam.

“Human suffering should never be an ingredient in our food, yet millions of people producing the food we buy at supermarkets like Stop & Shop, Giant, and even socially conscious Whole Foods, are working in appalling and unsafe conditions for shockingly little pay,” said Irit Tamir, Director of Oxfam America’s Private Sector Department. “Working in dangerous conditions, earning low wages and living in poverty, these workers can hardly feed their families all while supermarket giants are capturing an increasing share of the money we spend at the check-out and supermarket executives are enjoying big profits. It’s time for the biggest supermarkets to respect the rights of the people who produce our food.”

In the report, Oxfam highlights how the eight largest publicly owned supermarket chains in the world generated nearly a trillion dollars in sales in 2016, including $22 billion in profits, of which $15 billion were returned to shareholders. At the same time, supermarkets are keeping an increasingly growing share of the money their consumers spend, while the share that reaches workers and food producers has fallen, sometimes to less than 5 percent. (…)

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