UK’s retail giant Tesco has suspended the supply of avocados from Kenyan producer Kakuzi over claims of human rights abuses.
This comes after 79 Kenyans through law firm Leigh Day initiated legal action in a London court against UK’s Camellia for alleged human rights abuses by security guards employed by Kakuzi—its Kenyan subsidiary.
The security guards are alleged to have perpetrated horrific abuses including killings, rape, attacks, and false imprisonment since 2009.
Kakuzi supplies avocados to several UK supermarkets, among them Tesco, Britain’s biggest grocery retailer.
“Any form of human rights abuse in our supply chain is unacceptable. We have been working closely with the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), alongside other ETI members, to investigate this issue and ensure measures have been taken to protect workers,” a Tesco spokesperson said in a statement.
“However, in light of additional allegations published, we have suspended all supply whilst we urgently investigate.”
In a statement, Camellia, a global conglomerate that employs over 70,000 people worldwide, said it acquired a 50.7 percent stake in Kakuzi in the 1990s but does not have operational or managerial control.
“Kakuzi is investigating the allegations so that if there has been any wrongdoing, those responsible for it can be held to account and if appropriate, safeguarding processes can be improved,” the company said.
Among the 79 claimants are people working at the 140-square kilometers Kakuzi plantation in central Kenya, which also produces macadamia nuts, pineapples, and timber.
The lawsuit is being supported by the Kenya Human Rights Commission and the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO).
In a statement on its website, Kakuzi stated: “Kakuzi does not condone any criminal activities or behavior by any of its employees and to this end, we have requested the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to investigate the allegations of criminality and take action in accordance with the law.”