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BAT inadvertently created a bad smell in certain official circles in the USA recently when what appears to be an attempt to help Myanmar (Burma) increase its foreign currency earnings went wrong. BAT has been under fire from human rights campaigners and some governments on the grounds that its continued business partnerships with the military regime in Myanmar discourage reform. However, the background to the latest problem was distinctly fishy.
BAT is thought to have established relationships with local exporters to win foreign currency to buy raw materials for its Rangoon plant, though it insisted it had no direct connection with fish or any other kind of foodstuffs. Nevertheless, a report from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last December came to light recently showing that a shipment stamped with the name of BAT’s subsidiary Rothmans of Pall Mall contained a “filthy, putrid or decomposed substance…unfit for human consumption”. Nothing new there, you may think; the FDA must simply have opened some of the cigarettes. But the packing cases contained not cigarettes, but frozen, peeled shrimps.