Tesco has “suspended” a factory making Christmas cards in China after a six-year-old schoolgirl found a troubling message from a worker in a box.
Florence Widdicombe, from Tooting in south London, opened her box of cards to distribute them to friends and found a note which said: “We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qinqpu prison China.
“Forced to work against our will. Please help us and notify human rights organisation,” the message added, according to the Sunday Times.
Tesco Ireland said it sold two Christmas charity cards, one in aid of Temple Street children’s hospital and the other in aid of the Irish Cancer Society. Both cards are made and printed in Ireland and carry the guaranteed Irish logo, a spokeswoman stressed.
However, the spokeswoman said, Tesco Ireland had established that through Tesco UK, “we do stock other Christmas cards made in this factory and these have been withdrawn from sale in our stores with immediate effect.
“Tesco UK have suspended the factory where these cards are produced and have launched an investigation. We abhor the use of any form of forced labour and would never allow the use of prison labour in our supply chain.”
The spokeswoman said Tesco UK had a comprehensive auditing system in place. This supplier was independently audited as recently as last month and no evidence was found to suggest they had broken the company’s rule banning the use of prison labour, she said.
“If a supplier breaches these rules, we will immediately and permanently de-list them.”
A Tesco spokeswoman in Britain told PA the company was “shocked” and had shut down operations at the facility. “We would never allow prison labour in our supply chain,” she said.
“We were shocked by these allegations and immediately halted production at the factory where these cards are produced and launched an investigation.”
Tesco donates £300,000 (€350,000) each year from the sale of the cards to the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and Diabetes UK.
The card with the message on it had been made at Zheijiang Yunguang Printing, where it is understood an independent audit was conducted in November which found no concerns about forced labour.
The retailer has not received any complaints from customers about messages inside cards. – Additional reporting PA