The Cooperative Group, Marks & Spencer and Waitrose have also lent their weight to the crack down on illegal gangmasters.
The initiative was developed by the Association of Labour Providers, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) and Migrant Help and is supported by trade body the Food and Drink Federation among others.
It aims to equip UK employers with the knowledge to recognise the signs of what the leaders of the project term “modern day slavery” and tackle it in the food and agriculture sectors.
They have made available free best practice guidance, posters and leaflets to raise awareness via the Stronger Together website.
A series of interactive workshops will be held across the UK to further help the food industry understand its responsibilities and the best practice associated with tackling hidden labour exploitation.
Forced labour and human trafficking were hidden crimes often carried out by criminal gangs, said retail trade group British Retail Consortium (BRC), which is also backing the move.
In 2012, 29% of cases of labour exploitation reported to the UK Human Trafficking Centre occurred in the food processing and agricultural sectors, the BRC claimed.
“The Stronger Together project is a shining example of organisations across the UK food industry teaming up to tackle human trafficking and forced labour,” said BRC director general Helen Dickinson.
‘No place for exploitation’
“UK retailers are committed to addressing the issue through joint working with the GLA, law enforcement agencies and farmers; there is no place for exploitation in our supply chains.”
GLA ceo Paul Broadbent said: “Stronger Together will help us to work more closely with industry to prevent exploitation by the early identification of the signs that a worker or workers are being abused so that criminals can be exposed and dealt with by the GLA.”
Recent cases handled by the GLA of exploitation include the July prosecution of six people in Derbyshire believed to be involved with human trafficking to supply staff to flower packers and meat processors.
The GLA also recently revoked the gangmaster licence of Recruit Solutions, a recruitment agency supplying a Northamptonshire-based cooked meat and vegetable producer, after an inspection discovered irregularities.