Does Your Cafeteria Serve Ocean Destruction?

by David Pinsky

August 23, 2016

Every time you eat in a restaurant, hospital, airport, a university cafeteria, or even at a rock concert, it is likely that you are eating food provided by a large foodservice company. Sea of Distress, a brand new Greenpeace report, highlights which large food companies are failing to protect workers and our oceans.

Loggerhead turtle caught in the net of the Ecuadorean purse seiner 'Ingalapagos', which was documented fishing on a fish aggregation device (FAD) by Greenpeace in the vicinity of the northern Galapagos Islands. Unknown number of endangered marine turtles die in purse seine FAD fisheries each year. Greenpeace is calling for a total ban on the use of fish aggregation devices in purse seining, and the establishment of a global network of marine reserves. LAT 04:07 NORTH / LONG 091:28 WEST

© Alex Hofford / Greenpeace

Every day, roughly half of the money Americans spend on food outside of the home is gobbled up by the U.S. foodservice industry.

Wait, what’s foodservice?

Companies that buy, transport, cook, or serve the food you get at Subway, Burger King, a Beyoncé show or the Super Bowl, Walmart corporate cafeterias, the University of Kentucky, Chicago Public Schools, Yosemite National Park, Hilton hotels, or even in the U.S. Capitol’s cafeterias.

Some large clients of U.S. foodservice companies.

Some large clients of U.S. foodservice companies.

Foodservice is one of the largest industries we frequent often, though many know nothing about.

These companies buy and sell tons of seafood, and some of it is destructively caught and potentially connected to forced labor. 

So…how do the companies rank that supply and serve up tuna at Subway, fried shrimp at Disney World, or a tuna salad sandwich in a cafeteria for Toyota employees.

Glad you asked.

Today Greenpeace released Sea of Distress, its first seafood sustainability ranking of foodservice companies.

Greenpeace’s Sea of Distress report evaluates and ranks 15 major U.S. foodservice companies on their commitments to sustainable seafood.

Sodexo, Compass Group, and Aramark led the rankings as the only companies that passed—barely—while Sysco and US Foods are among the twelve failing companies.

Many companies are supplied by Thai Union Group, the largest tuna company in the world that owns U.S. brand Chicken of the Sea and supplies supermarkets too, including Walmart and Kroger. Thai Union is notorious for ocean destruction. And some of its seafood supply chains have been linked to human rights abuses, where seafood workers were forced to work under horrendous conditions for months with no escape. From the halls of Congress to your university, favorite restaurant, or workplace – you could be eating seafood connected to ocean destruction or even human rights abuses.

You have the power to help transform a global industry ripping up the sea and exploiting workers.

It’s time for companies profiting off of ocean destruction and mistreated workers to change. You have the power to tell companies not to destroy ocean life and to protect workers’ rights from Southeast Asia to right here in the U.S.

Ready to help? Here’s how:

  1. Know the facts. Check out Sea of Distress to see which are the best and worst ranked companies.
  1. Eat tuna? Tell the foodservice provider of your company, school, or favorite restaurant that you want responsibly caught tuna, and express your concern if it is coming from suppliers that cannot guarantee sustainable and ethical products, like Chicken of the Sea or Thai Union.
  1. Speak your mind. Join Greenpeace Greenwire to connect with volunteers. Together, ask how your foodservice provider is working to stop forced labor, labor abuse, illegal fishing, and protect workers’ rights. If it’s a lousy response, take your business elsewhere.
  1. Eat less seafood. Reducing seafood consumption now can help lessen the pressure on our oceans, ensuring fish for the future.
  1. Vote with your dollar. If you or someone you know eats seafood, use the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch app. Only buy green-rated “Best Choice” seafood.
David Pinsky

By David Pinsky

David authors Greenpeace USA’s annual seafood sustainability report for the nation’s largest supermarkets, holding major companies accountable and shifting seafood practices that have global impacts on our oceans.

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