Bangladeshi children are being used to help make clothes for supermarket giant Tesco, a charter member of the Ethical Trading Initiative that bans the use of child labor, a British television network claimed on Tuesday.
Channel 4 News secretly visited and filmed four factories that supply the British supermarket giant, two of which are owned by Harvest Rich Ltd and two others belonging to Evince Group, where children as young as 12 were apparently employed.
Tesco is a founding member of the Ethical Trading Initiative, which states that child labor must not be used, but Channel 4 News filmed child workers making men's trousers and shirts at the factories over a period of four months.
One alleged worker from a Harvest Rich factory told the team: "I am 12 years old. I said I was 11 and a half and they took me in ... In the whole of Harvest Rich there are 200 to 300 child workers."
The minimum age for workers in factories that supply clothes for Tesco is 18.
The report stressed there was no suggestion that the supermarket giant was aware of the use of child labor by its suppliers, and Tesco said it completes ongoing audits of all its suppliers and had no evidence the support the claims.
"We abhor child labor and feel that Channel 4 had a duty to alert us earlier if these allegations are true," the company said.
"As soon as they did bring them to our attention, we immediately carried out unannounced inspections of the sites they say they visited and despite rigorous investigation have found no evidence whatsoever of under-age workers," the company added.
A spokesman for the company said it was not aware that two of the factories -- one Evince and one Harvest Rich -- were producing Tesco's clothing label without authorization, but added that Tesco was confident there were no child workers there.
Speaking to Channel 4, Harvest Rich denied using child labor, saying all its employees' ages were verified by an authorized doctor and/or a local government representative. Evince made similar denials, adding that every worker has their age verified by a physician.