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Costco Just Dropped This Controversial Product From Its Stores

The retailer joins a list of companies boycotting a coconut milk producer accused of animal abuse.
costco shelves

If you regularly stock up on coconut milk during your shopping trips to Costco, we have some bad news. The bulk retailer has committed to stop carrying products from overseas suppliers accused of using forced animal labor.

An investigation by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) revealed that chained monkeys had been used to pick coconuts for major suppliers in Thailand. The maker of Chaokoh coconut milk, which was named in PETA's probe, is Theppadungporn Coconut Co. Ltd. Predating Costco's announcement, several other large retailers had already pledged to stop carrying the brand's products, including Walgreens, Stop & Shop, Giant Food, and Food Lion. (Related: 9 Restaurant Chains That Closed Hundreds of Locations This Summer.)

Costco—which operates 795 warehouses and boasted worldwide retail sales of more than $150 billion in 2019—previously sold Chaokoh coconut milk in bulk. Ken Kimble, Costco's vice president and general merchandise manager, confirmed in a letter to PETA that the brand shared its concerns about the abuse of monkeys in Thailand's coconut industry and had ceased purchasing from Theppadungporn Coconut Co. Ltd. Earlier this year, the company also removed Palmetto Cheese from its stores following racist comments by the company's founder.

"No kind shopper wants monkeys to be chained up and treated like coconut-picking machines," PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said in a statement. "Costco made the right call to reject animal exploitation, and PETA is calling on holdouts like Kroger to follow suit."

Theppadungporn Coconut Co. Ltd issued a statement to the outlet denying the allegations.

"Following the recent news about the use of 'monkey labour' in Thailand's coconut industry, Chaokoh, one of the world's leaders in coconut milk production, reassures that we do not engage the use of monkey labour in our coconut plantations," the statement read.

The company also told USA Today that it had its suppliers sign memorandums guaranteeing that no monkey labor would be used on farms.

Chaokoh-branded products are currently still carried by Target, Walmart, and Kroger.

"Kroger has a longstanding commitment to responsible business practices, including the humane treatment of animals," the grocery store chain said in a statement to Eat This, Not That!. "We have re-engaged our suppliers, as well as other stakeholders, on this issue to re-confirm they are also protecting animal welfare."

Costco, Target, and Walmart have not responded to requests for comment from Eat This, Not That!.

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Mura Dominko
Mura Dominko is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!. Read more