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Bangladesh factory that burned down supplied Canadian market

A Bangladesh factory that was the site of a deadly fire this week had likely shipped products to at least one Canadian retailer, CBC News has learned.

Documents show possible connection between Loblaw Companies and May 2013 shipment from Aswad garment factory

A Canadian brand had contracts in the Bangladesh factory that collapsed last spring, killing more than 1,000 workers, Mark Kelley reports 3:16

A Bangladesh factory that was the site of a deadly fire this week had likely shipped products to at least one Canadian retailer, CBC News has learned.

Flames gutted the four-storey Aswad garment factory near the Bangladeshi capital on Tuesday, killing 10 people and injuring several others as they tried to escape the blaze.

Shipping records obtained by CBC’s the fifth estate indicate that Loblaw Companies, owner of clothing retailer Joe Fresh, received more than 8,000 cartons of clothing or fabric from the facility on May 16, 2013.

CBC News contacted Loblaw to ask about the records. The company responded via email with this: “Loblaw Companies is confident we have not placed any product orders from the Aswad Composite Mills Ltd Co.”

CBC News then sent copies of the shipping documents from the two May 16 shipments.

Loblaw responded by saying it has a “no tolerance policy” with all its vendors regarding unauthorized outsourcing.

“We have seen documents that suggest there may have been such unauthorized production and we are investigating.”

The shipping records in question were collected by a U.S.-based company called Import Genius, which compiles bills of lading and other shipping data collected by U.S. Customs for cargo that passes through American ports.

HBC, which owns the Hudson’s Bay and Home Outfitters in Canada, said it had placed its last order with Aswad in October 2012, for delivery in April 2013.

“We had determined at that time that we would not be placing subsequent orders with Aswad,” company spokesperson Tiffany Bourre told CBC News.

Bourre did not immediately respond to queries regarding how long the company had been placing orders with Aswad, or why the firm decided to stop doing so.

A firefighter inspects a garment factory in the Bangladeshi town of Gazipur, 40 kilometres north of the capital Dhaka, on Oct. 9, 2013. (Andrew Biraj/Reuters)

Tuesday’s fire erupted about six months after the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex in Bangladesh, killing 1,100 people and exposing the harsh and often unsafe conditions in an industry that is the world's third-largest.

Authorities and global clothing companies pledged to improve safety standards in Bangladesh's garment industry after the Rana Plaza collapse and numerous other fatal accidents.

The cause of the fire at the Aswad garment factory was not immediately known, but the government is investigating.

With files from The Associated Press

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