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Buy this grocery item – and you could be helping North Korea

Metairie, La. —  Do you really know who makes a profit on things you buy at the supermarket?

According to an in-depth investigation by the Associated Press, certain seafood products sold at Walmart and other supermarkets are processed in China by North Korean “slave laborers.”

The Associated Press reporting team traveled to Hunchun, China, and found that North Korean workers had been “outsourced by their government to process seafood that ends up in American stores and homes.”

Not only that, the AP investigation also found that the workers “are paid a fraction of their salaries, while the rest — as much as 70 percent — is taken by North Korea’s government.”

In particular, the investigation traced the supply chain of  certain packages of seafood, like salmon, which are processed by North Korean workers at Chinese companies, and then imported from China by American distributors.

American sanctions prohibit the importing of goods from North Korea — but there’s no ban on products coming from China.

The report found that seafood processed at Chinese companies using North Korean workers often “arrives in generic packaging, but some was already branded in China with familiar names like Walmart or Sea Queen.”

According to the Associated Press, “every Western company involved that responded to AP’s requests for comment said forced labor and potential support for North Korea’s weapons program were unacceptable in their supply chains. Many said they were going to investigate, and some said they had already cut off ties with suppliers.”

And Walmart spokeswoman Marilee McInnis told the AP that company officials became aware of the situation last year, and, according to the AP, “had banned their suppliers” from getting seafood processed in a Chinese factory where North Koreans are alleged to be working.

Still, buyer beware.  The AP investigation found that some Chinese companies use North Korean workers to make other products, like wood flooring and clothing, which also might wind up in American stores.

You can read the full report here.

A beauty shot outside an unidentified Walmart Supercenter