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An 18 month investigation was led by Martha Mendoza of the Associated Press, into the hidden world behind seafood distribution in America. Mendoza's investigative journalism earned her a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. She exposed the use of slave labor in South East Asia.
Hari Sreenivasan sat down with the Associated Press reporter Martha Mendoza to discuss the shocking expose that freed over 2,000 slaves after the report was made public. According to PBS, Mendoza tracked the widespread use of slave labor in South East Asia that supplies the various seafood products and items in American restaurants and supermarkets.
The supply chain trail led the reporting team to track the slave-produced seafood items to Wal-Mart, Safeway, Sysco, Albertsons, and products like Fancy Feasts and Iams as well. The Associated Press expose was able to uncover the harsh slavery conditions behind the scenes. Fishermen were beaten and caged.
The AP team worked with human rights activists who have connections with captive slaves and freed or escaped captives. Esther Htusan, one of the AP reporters, flew to Burma and was able to find a den of slave workers. They were shoving pieces of papers in their hands with their parents' names and phone numbers and their villages begging to tell their families back home that they were alive. The report also exposed a graveyard of bodies that were once slave workers.
Mendoza says, "A lot of time, when you're in a supermarket, you're going to see a piece of fish under some clear plastic wrap with a label on it. It's not even going to say which distributor it came from. So, there was a lot of steps in between."
The paper trail was uncovered between these fishing suppliers and the grocery stores in the United States when the team documented the seafood being loaded up from boats, to cargo ships, to Thailand factories, to delivery trucks and eventually to American destinations.