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US will block palm oil from major Malaysian producer

WASHINGTON – The United States will no longer accept shipments of palm oil and derivative products from a major producer in Malaysia after a wide range of labor abuses were found, including violence and child labor, according to an official Wednesday.

The withhold release order against FGV Holdings Berhad goes into effect immediately after a yearlong investigation, said Brenda Smith, executive assistant commissioner at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Trade. The US will detain shipments from the producer moving forward.

“We would urge the U.S. importing community again to do their due diligence,” she said, adding they should look at their palm oil supply chains. “We would also encourage U.S. consumers to ask questions about where their products come from.”

FGV is one of the largest palm oil companies in the world and is closely connected to Felda, a major Malaysian government corporation.

The order comes nearly a week after an Associated Press investigation exposed a wide range of labor abuses across the palm oil industry in Malaysia and Indonesia, which together produce around 85% of the global supply – valued in the billions.

Abuses occurred on plantations operated by Felda. The unethical palm oil was traced to the planet’s most iconic food and cosmetics companies. Groups like Unilever, L’Oreal, Nestle, and Procter & Gamble.

On their part, FGV issued a statement outlining their commitment to human rights, including steps it will take to ensure its workers have access to their passports and wages.

“Despite ongoing criticism and allegations against FGV, we will continue with our effort to strengthen our practices to respect human rights and uphold labor standards,” the statement said. “Our commitment to sustainability is clear, and we are determined to achieve the goals and targets we have set as a responsible and sustainable business.”

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