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Ferrero, prosecutors investigating child labour claims involving production of Kinder Surprise toys


Italian confectionery group Ferrero says it has launched an investigation into allegations that Romanian children as young as six were making toys for its Kinder chocolate eggs, abc.net.au reads.

The statement came after British newspaper, The Sun, reported this week that impoverished families in Romania were working long hours for little pay to make the toys at home.

The paper said it interviewed a family of five — including three children aged between six and 11 — who described being paid 20 lei ($6.33) for every 1,000 finished eggs they delivered to a factory in the north-western town of Carei.

"We are appalled and deeply concerned by the allegations of unacceptable practice in Romania," Ferrero said in a statement.

"[We] have launched an immediate and thorough investigation to establish all the facts as a matter of urgency."

It was unclear whether the toys produced in Romania were included inside eggs sold in other countries, such as Australia.

On Tuesday, Romanian prosecutors said in an online statement they were also looking into the report.

The family interviewed by The Sun said they received materials to assemble the toys by a sub-contractor for Romexa SA — one of Ferrero's suppliers.

"This is the first I have heard of it, but I will find out who is responsible and the factories involved will have their contracts terminated if this is found to be true," Romexa area manager Daniel Muresan told The Sun.

Ferrero said its code of conduct banned child labour and all suppliers were subject to regular independent inspections.

The company confirmed it worked with Romexa and that the sub-contractor had passed a strict audit in May.

It's not the first time the British media have published horror stories about the country which later turned out to be hoaxes. Last summer the TV channel Sky News reported that mafia gangs were supposedly selling weapons to terrorists. The Romanian police immediately opened an investigation, and subsequently announced that the story was an invention. The journalists had paid extras to play the parts of arms dealers; the guns involved were collectors' items. A number of people, who admitted receiving 2,000 euros each for their "appearances," were arrested.

Romanian journalists have long suspected that their British colleagues are whipping up negative feelings at home over the possible immigration of impoverished Romanians. This is why it's all the more important for the authorities to get to the bottom of this case as fast as possible.

Child labor is banned in Romania, which is a member of the European Union. There also needs to be an end to the dishonest working methods in certain sectors of the tabloid media.