Costco dropping Chaokoh coconut milk over monkey claims, PETA says

Costco dropping Chaokoh coconut milk over monkey claims, PETA says

Kelly Tyko

| USA TODAY
PETA: Costco to drop coconut milk over monkey allegationsCostco Wholesale Club is the latest retailer to say it won’t stock coconut milk that used monkeys to pick coconuts, PETA said.Don’t expect to find coconut milk on Costco shelves on your next shopping trip.The Issaquah, Washington-based wholesale club is the latest retailer pledging not to stock coconut products from Thai suppliers who have been accused of using monkeys as forced labor, officials from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) exclusively told USA TODAY.Costco follows Walgreens, Food Lion, Giant Food and Stop & Shop, who also stopped stocking brands of coconut milk including Chaokoh after an investigation from PETA in Asia found monkeys in Thailand were picking coconuts.”No kind shopper wants monkeys to be chained up and treated like coconut-picking machines,” PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said in a statement. “Costco made the right call to reject animal exploitation, and PETA is calling on holdouts like Kroger to follow suit.”Trader Joe’s fish recall: Gluten Free Battered Halibut recalled in 19 states over undeclared wheat, milk allergensListeria outbreak: Listeria outbreak linked to Italian-style deli meats kills 1, hospitalizes 9 across 3 states, CDC saysA Costco representative said the company was “not able” to respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment. PETA provided USA TODAY with a letter that Ken Kimble, Costco’s vice president and general merchandise manager of corporate food and sundries, sent to Newkirk.“We have ceased purchasing from our supplier/owner of the brand Chaokoh,” Kimble wrote in the letter dated Sept. 29. “We will continue to monitor the implementation of the harvest policies and once satisfied will resume purchasing.”Costco also reportedly pulled Palmetto Cheese after the cheese company’s founder called Black Lives Matter a “terror organization.”In the letter, Kimble said Costco shared Newkirk’s “concern about the alleged treatment of monkeys” and launched an investigation when it became aware of the potential issue.Costco pulls Palmetto Cheese after BLM ‘terror organization’ commentsBrian Henry, founder of the pimento cheese brand, also made a public Facebook post criticizing the “senseless killings in Georgetown.”“We have made it clear to the supplier that we do not support the use of monkeys for harvesting and that all harvesting must be done by human labor,” Kimble wrote. “In turn, our supplier has contractually required the same of all its suppliers. In addition, our supplier is in the process of visiting every one of its supplier farms to communicate the harvest policies.”The Thailand-based maker of Chaokoh coconut milk, Theppadungporn Coconut Co. Ltd, told USA TODAY that it has audited coconut plantations using a third party and shared a copy of the 14-page “Monkey-Free Coconut Due Diligence Assessment.” The report says 64 farms out of 817 were randomly selected and “did not find the use of monkey for coconut harvesting.””Following the recent news about the use of “monkey labour” in Thailand’s coconut industry, Chaokoh, one of the world’s leaders in coconut milk production, reassures that we do not engage the use of monkey labour in our coconut plantations,” the company said in a statement, which noted its suppliers have signed memorandums of understanding that no monkey labor at their farms.Two Chaokoh products were listed on Costco’s Business Center website but not the regular Costco website Tuesday. The brand also was listed for sale on Target, Walmart and Kroger’s websites.Walmart and Target did not immediately comment on whether they would also make changes.“Kroger has a longstanding commitment to responsible business practices, including the humane treatment of animals,” the nation’s largest grocery store chain said in a statement to USA TODAY. “We have re-engaged our suppliers, as well as other stakeholders, on this issue to re-confirm they are also protecting animal welfare.”PETA has been pushing stores to stop selling coconut milk believed to have been made with coconuts harvested by monkeys since it began investigating the alleged animal exploitation in 2019.Kent Stein, PETA’s corporate responsibility officer, said the investigation found that the monkeys can pick around 400 coconuts a day while on chains. They are then confined to cages.“Just because something is legal or accepted it doesn’t mean it’s OK,” Stein said, adding the Tourism Authority of Thailand website promotes monkey labor. “What really drives this change is retailers not supporting the product, and of course, customers not buying the product. Costco being a major player should have an impact.”PETA lists coconut milk products that it says don’t use forced monkey labor on its website, www.peta.org.Black Friday 2020: Walmart, Home Depot, Target, Macy’s reveal plans. Here’s how the holiday shopping season is different amid COVID-19Taco Bell World Series freebie returns: Mookie Betts stole a base. Here’s how to get a free Doritos Locos tacoFollow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko


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