(Adds company response in para 5)
LONDON, Jan 11 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - British supermarket Waitrose has pulled a brand of Italian coffee off its shelves after shoppers noticed the packaging featured images of 19th-century slaves working on plantations.
Waitrose removed the tins of Saquella 1856 coffee from sale last month after complaints from customers in London about the images of slaves harvesting beans in Guatemala, Central America.
“We are sorry for any offence caused by the images that were shown on these products,” a Waitrose spokeswoman said by email.
“We’ve spoken to the supplier, who has explained that the images were intended to depict how coffee was historically harvested and traded,” she added.
Saquella 1856 apologised in a statement for any offence caused by its images, saying it was “shocked to learn they had been interpreted in this way.”
Rishi Madlani, a politician and councillor for Bloomsbury in London, where shoppers raised alarm about the coffee, said the images were “absolutely shocking and utterly unacceptable”.
“Hopefully people will think more carefully in advance next time,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by email, saying he had also written to Waitrose to condemn the tins.
The upmarket grocer last year removed from sale one of its corned beef brands after a newspaper investigation found it might contain meat linked to slave labour on farms in Brazil.
The imagery associated with slavery - and the issues it raises over history and identity - stirs increasing debate, with deep division over the fate of slavery-era statues and Confederate flags in the United States and beyond. (Writing By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)