Tesco halts production of Christmas cards in Chinese factory after message for help discovered inside
"Please help us and notify human rights organisation."
Tesco has suspended production at a factory in China after allegations prison labour was used in the packaging of the charity cards.
The allegations came to light after The Sunday Times reported a story about Florence Widdicombe, a six-year-old schoolgirl from Tooting in south London, who opened a pack of the charity cards to find a message for help scrawled inside one of the cards.
“We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qingpu prison China,” the message read in capital letters. “Forced to work against our will. Please help us and notify human rights organisation.”
The message also urged the reader "to contact Mr Peter Humphrey". Widdicombe's father did not know who Humphrey was but following a Google search, discovered he was former journalist who spent 23 months imprisoned at the same prison.
After being contacted by the father, Humphrey took the story to The Sunday Times and following investigations and interviews with former prisoners, found out that prisoners are used for menial packaging tasks.
The charity cards are sold by Tesco to raise money for various charities with around €352,000 each year donated to the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and Diabetes UK.
A spokesperson for Tesco said: "We were shocked by these allegations and immediately halted production at the factory where these cards are produced and launched an investigation."
The retailer said it has a "comprehensive auditing system" in place and the supplier was independently audited as recently as last month. The audit found there was no evidence to suggest their rule banning the use of prison labour had been broken.