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‘Slavery label’ coffee is taken off shop shelves

Supermarket’s apology for ‘any offence’ after horrified customers complained about tins’ images of black slaves harvesting beans

12 January, 2018 — By William McLennan

A close-up of the label on the Saquella 1856 coffee tins

SUPERMARKET chain Waitrose has stopped selling tins of coffee that appear to bear images of slaves working on plantations, following a backlash from shoppers in Bloomsbury.

The Italian beans were pulled from shelves across the country after horrified customers at the store in the Brunswick Centre complained.

Patriic Gayle, who orchestrated the campaign with his friend Annette Saunders, said they were “incandescent” when they realised tins of Saquella 1856 coffee had images of black slaves harvesting beans Guatemala.

He said: “I noticed a new tin with pretty packaging, so I checked it out. I looked a little closer and suddenly thought, oh my god, these are slaves on a plantation.

“In one, you have got a white plantation owner, looking at the slaves. It just about ticked all the horror boxes you can imagine.”

The tins on sale at Waitrose

Mr Gayle then contacted the company’s customer services department, but with no action taken a week later, appealed directly to Waitrose managing director, Rob Collins.

Shortly after sending the email, which was also addressed to the Extra and Bloomsbury ward councillors, the store agreed to remove all the offensive products from its shelves.

Waitrose said in a statement: “We are sorry for any offence caused by the images that were shown on these products.

“We’ve spoken to the supplier who has explained that the images were intended to depict how coffee was historically harvested and traded.

“However, we fully understand how these could be interpreted and removed both products from sale in December until the supplier has had the opportunity to redesign the packaging.”

A statement from Saquella 1856: “We apologise to anyone that was offended by the images. As a Fairtrade accredited and EFSIS ethical standard approved business, we were shocked to learn they had been interpreted in this way and the products were removed from sale in December.”


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