U.S. Customs and Border Protection detaining certain Malaysian palm oil

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The new year got underway with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel at all U.S. ports of entry detaining palm oil and products containing palm oil produced by Sime Darby Plantation Berhad and its subsidiaries, joint ventures, and affiliated entities in Malaysia.

The issuance of a Withhold Release Order against Sime Darby Plantation palm oil is based on information that reasonably indicates the presence of all 11 of the International Labour Organization’s forced labor indicators in Sime Darby Plantation’s production process.

The U.S. statute 19 U.S.C. 1307 prohibits the importation of merchandise mined, manufactured, or produced, wholly or in part, by convict labor, forced labor, and/or indentured labor, including forced or indentured child labor. This Withhold Release Order will require the detention at all U.S. ports of entry of raw palm oil and processed products containing palm oil produced by Sime Darby Plantation. CBP provides importers of detained shipments an opportunity to export their shipments or demonstrate that the merchandise was not produced with forced labor.

Palm oil is a common ingredient in products that U.S. consumers encounter every day in grocery and convenience stores. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture reports, palm oil is increasingly found in processed foods, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, soap, and biodiesel.

“This Withhold Release Order demonstrates how essential it is for Americans to research the origins of the everyday products that they purchase,” said CBP Acting Commissioner Mark A. Morgan. “American consumers can help end modern slavery by choosing to buy products they know are ethically and humanely sourced.”

CBP urges consumers to check the websites of their favorite retailers to verify that they have fair trade policies and corporate social responsibility programs. Consumers can learn more about regions and industries that are at high risk of forced labor by reviewing the following resources:

  • The Withhold Release Orders and Findings listed on CBP.gov;
  • The Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced with Child and Forced Labor; and
  • The Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report.

In September 2020, CBP issued a separate Withhold Release Order against another Malaysian palm oil producer, FGV Holdings Berhad. That Withhold Release Order was one of 13 that CBP issued during the U.S. federal Fiscal Year 2020. All Withhold Release Orders are publicly available and listed by country on CBP’s Forced Labor Withhold Release Orders and Findings page.

CBP receives allegations of forced labor from a variety of sources, including from the general public. Any person or organization that has reason to believe merchandise produced with the use of forced labor is being, or likely to be, imported into the U.S. can report detailed allegations by contacting CBP through the e-Allegations Online Trade Violation Reporting System or by calling 1-800-BE-ALERT.

Follow CBP Office of Trade on Twitter @CBPTradeGov.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control, and protection of our nation’s borders at and between official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of other U.S. laws.

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