Food giants implicated in child labour abuse

Amnesty International has accused a number of multinational food companies of using child labour in their supply chains.

The human rights organisation named Nestlé, Procter & Gamble and Unilever among nine firms it alleges contributed to labour abuses by sourcing palm oil from plantations run by Singapore-based agri-business Wilmar.

Amnesty said it had evidence that children as young as eight years old were working in hazardous conditions on Wilmar plantations in Indonesia. It used export data and information published by Wilmar to trace palm oil to the nine companies, which also include AFAMSA, ADM, Colgate-Palmolive, Elevance, Kellogg’s and Reckitt Benckiser.

When approached by Amnesty, seven of the firms acknowledged that they bought palm oil from Wilmar’s Indonesian operations, but only two - Kellogg’s and Reckitt Benckiser - were willing to provide any level of detail about which of their products were affected. Both companies cited traceability in the supply chain as a factor in why they had failed to identify or act on abuses at the plants.

Amnesty is now calling on all of the firms to tell customers whether the palm oil that is present in their products comes from Wilmar’s Indonesian operation.

“Corporate giants like Colgate, Nestlé and Unilever assure consumers that their products use ‘sustainable palm oil’, but our findings reveal that it’s anything but,” said Meghna Abraham, senior investigator at Amnesty International.

“There is nothing sustainable about palm oil that is produced using child labour and forced labour. The abuses discovered within Wilmar’s palm oil operations are not isolated incidents but are systemic and a predictable result of the way Wilmar does business.”

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