Bidfresh urges chefs to focus on ethical supply

July 2019

Ethical trading issues including modern slavery, fair wages, gender equality, and decent working hours are increasingly moving up the consumer agenda, believes fresh produce group Bidfresh.

The recent court case which saw convictions following a police investigation into the UK’s largest modern slavery ring has highlighted how close to home the issue can be for hospitality businesses. Some victims worked in the food supply chain, including on farms and in poultry factories (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/jul/05/charity-and-police-break-up-uks-largest-modern-slavery-ring).

Bidfresh has just completed an updated training programme for its sales teams to ensure they are able to advise on ethical trading in the supply chain. The group, which supplies products including fresh meat, fish & seafood, fruit & veg and cheese to thousands of chefs and hospitality businesses, believes operators that don’t prioritise ethical trading will increasingly face tough questions from customers, as well as negative publicity when specific issues hit the headlines.

Bidfresh is spotlighting the issue as a member of organisations including the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) and the Food Network for Ethical Trade.

Caitlin Schindler, Bidfresh Sustainability & Ethics Manager, said: “We’ve been addressing ethical trading issues right through our business for some time, and joined the ETI in 2015.

“Our supply chain is complex; we source everywhere from local farms, dairies and day boats in Britain to international producers in locations from Canada to Vietnam. .
“These suppliers are crucial to our businesses, and we expect them to be specialists in the food they sell; ethically and sustainably minded; and to be as close to the source of the food as possible.”

As well as UK cases, the ETI has highlighted issues around the world that need to be of concern to hospitality industry. These include:

• Modern slavery: There have been documented cases all over the world, including in the UK. A recent example is Brazil, one of the world’s largest exporters of beef. Because of their isolation, there have been documented cases of slavery and child labour on certain Brazilian beef ranches. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/sep/29/victims-of-slavery-farms-in-brazil-para-state-amazonian-rainforest

• Another modern slavery investigation led to the release of more than 2000 slaves held on Thai boats catching seafood for global markets. https://www.ap.org/explore/seafood-from-slaves/

• Sexual exploitation: The Spanish fresh produce sector relies on migrant seasonal labour. Recent media reports have told the stories of Moroccan women who have been victims of trafficking, assault and exploitation when working in Spain. https://www.ethicaltrade.org/blog/sexual-abuse-workers-spains-strawberry-fields

Bidfresh’s Direct Seafoods business works with organisations such as the Marine Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Seafood Coalition to ensure that the source and origin of both wild-caught and farmed fish is clear, while its Countrywide Butchers brand is committing to achieve the UK Farm Animal Welfare Council’s Five Freedoms in its meat, dairy and egg supply chains.

Stephen Oswald, CEO of Bidfresh, said: “We can never afford to be complacent, and we work hard on behalf of our customers to ensure we meet these high ethical standards, often without them even being aware that we do so.

“However, awareness is growing, and we believe consumers in the hospitality sector are going to be asking tougher questions when they eat out. We’re stepping up our own internal training, and the advice and support we offer our customers on ethical and sustainability issues. We can give all the information operators need to highlight responsibly sourced produce on menus, and we hope to see many more using it.”