Italian sweets giant Ferrero has said it is investigating media allegations that Romanian children are helping assemble its Kinder chocolate eggs. It said it is "appalled" at the accusations.
Italian confectionery group Ferrero and Romanian prosecutors said they have launched investigations after British tabloid "The Sun" alleged that children in poor families in Romania were working long hours packing toys for Ferrero's Kinder Eggs.
The paper said it had interviewed a family of five, with three children aged between six and 11, who said that together they were earning the equivalent of 1.17 euros ($1.23) per hour for placing the tiny toys in plastic containers that go in the eggs.
The family members were working up to 13 hours a day for a factory in the northwestern town of Carei, the paper said.
Ferrero said in a statement that it was "appalled and deeply concerned by the allegations of unacceptable practice in Romania."
"[We] have launched an immediate and thorough investigation to establish all the facts as a matter of urgency."
It said child labor was banned under its code of conduct and that all its suppliers underwent regular independent inspections.
Romanian prosecutors also said in an online statement on Tuesday that they were looking into the report.
Local authorities in Romania have, however, cast doubt on the allegations made in "The Sun."
"It has been ruled out that the children were exploited... or that they worked 13 hours a day because they regularly go to school and kindergarten," school director Mariana Dragos told Agerpres news agency.
The mother of the family, Eimea Jurj, confirmed that she worked for a subcontractor of Romexa SA, a Ferrero supplier, but denied that her children were involved.
"It was a set-up; the journalists showed the children how to sit beside me," she told local reporters.
One out of 10 children around the world works in supply chains, including in agriculture, manufacturing and construction, according to the International Labor Organization.
tj/sms (Reuters, AFP)