News and Events

Child labor palm oil detained at US border

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

On September 30, 2020, United States Customs and Border Protection determined that palm oil and palm oil products from FGV Holdings Berhad in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia are now subject to a Withhold Release Order.  Its palm oil and palm oil products have been detained at the US border.

United States Customs and Border Protection explained that this is “the result of a year-long investigation that revealed forced labour indicators including abuse of vulnerability, deception, restriction of movement, isolation, physical and sexual violence, intimidation and threats, retention of identity documents, withholding of wages, debt bondage, abusive working and living conditions, and excessive overtime. The investigation also raised concerns that forced child labour is potentially being used in FGV's palm oil production process.”

By way of background, Malaysia and Indonesia produce about 85% of the world's estimated $65 billion palm oil.

Child laborers and adult workers in servitude work on the plantations tending and harvesting the heavy reddish-orange palm oil fruit.

Palm oil is used by major multinationals such as Unilever, L'Oreal, Nestle and Procter & Gamble.

It is used in food, cosmetics, paints, plywood, pesticides, pills, animal feed, biofuels and hand sanitizer.

Unlike rugs or carpets made by child laborers, we cannot identify it and boycott it as it is usually disguised on the label by more than 200 different names.  It is rarely described as "palm oil".

Quite apart some palm oil being produced by child laborers or adults in servitude, it is also of concern to environmentalists as large tracts of native forest, home to native wildlife, are cleared for palm oil plantations.