By Solarina Ho
TORONTO (Reuters) - The Bangladesh garment factory hit by a fire that killed at least nine people and injured some 50 more on Tuesday had manufactured clothing for western retailers including Hudson's Bay Co, the department store operator confirmed.
The fire originated in the knitting section of an Aswad Composite Mills factory.
Hudson's Bay said the last order it placed with Aswad was in October 2012 for delivery in April 2013. Spokeswoman Tiffany Bourre said the Canadian retailer decided at the time it would not place further orders with Aswad but did not elaborate.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc spokesman Kevin Gardner confirmed in an email that some of its suppliers source fabric from the mill where the fire broke out but noted that Wal-Mart does not have a direct contractual relationship with Aswad.
Gardner said that Wal-Mart has a safety program in place to inspect the factories that produce its garments, but that the program does not extend to the facilities that make the materials for those garments.
Separately, Canadian grocer Loblaw Co Ltd, owner of the apparel brand Joe Fresh, said it has seen documents suggesting unauthorized production for the company by the Aswad garment factory, located in Gazipur, 40 km (25 miles) north of the capital, Dhaka.
"Loblaw Companies is confident we have not placed any product orders from the Aswad Composite Mills Ltd Co," Loblaw spokeswoman Julija Hunter said in an email.
"We have a 'no tolerance' policy with all our vendors when it comes to unauthorized outsourcing," she said, adding that it was investigating the situation.
A series of deadly incidents at Bangladeshi factories, including a building collapse in April that killed more than 1,100 people, has raised international concern over safety standards in the South Asian country's booming, $20 billion garment industry.
The April collapse was the world's deadliest industrial accident since the 1984 Bhopal disaster in India, and has prompted calls for retailers and global brands to commit to making changes needed to ensure worker safety.
(Additional reporting by Jessica Wohl in Chicago and Julie Gordon in Vancouver, Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson)