A new investigation alleges Nutella could be made with Turkish child labour, and now Aussie supermarkets want answers

Could Nutella be taken off the shelf? (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
  • Nutella is under pressure after a BBC investigation found that child labour is used on many hazelnut farms in Turkey – the spread’s main supplier.
  • Its parent company Ferrero has told Business Insider Australia that while it does run programs aimed at removing child workers from farms, the complexity of the supply chain means it is unable to say with certainty whether or not any pick some of its hazelnuts.
  • It is working however to make its suppliers transparent and should be able to know next year, a spokesperson said.
  • Australian supermarkets Coles and Woolworths confirmed that they were both following up on the claims, although neither would say whether Nutella could be pulled from shelves.

While Nutella has previously faced criticism for its use of palm oil, it’s now under fire for a different ingredient – the humble hazelnut.

Three quarters of the world’s hazelnut supply are produced in Turkey, with a new BBC investigation revealing that many of the nation’s farms use child labourers. That puts Nutella and its parent company Ferrero – the world’s largest hazelnut buyer º in a tight spot. The product is wholly reliant on hazelnuts, buying a staggering one-quarter of the entire global supply to make its cocoa spread.

The BBC has reported that the majority of hazelnut pickers are Kurdish migrants, including children. The Kurds are an ethnic minority group living predominately in the poor south and east of Turkey. For their physical labour on one of the 400,000 small hazelnut farms dotted around Turkey, they can be paid as little as $13 a day according to the BBC.

Once the nuts are picked they are then sold on to traders by the sack before Ferrero gets its hands on them. That convoluted supply chain makes it difficult to ascertain exactly what kind of labour was used, Ferrero maintains.

“We are determined to prevent and eliminate child labour all along our supply chains, with the conviction that every child should be protected, by all possible means, from any form of exploitation,” a spokesperson told Business Insider Australia.

“Ferrero is committed to contributing to influencing and driving sustainable changes in the hazelnut production sector. This includes combatting child labour with a multi-stakeholder approach… the complexity of the hazelnut supply chain means it cannot be transformed by one single actor, and cooperation is absolutely essential to tackling the issue of child labour.”

READ MORE: This Map Shows How Many Countries Contribute To A Single Jar Of Nutella

It leaves Ferrero in a bind. While it has collaborated with others on different programs designed to remove child labour from farms, it cannot currently guarantee no children workers are involved in picking its hazelnuts. Ferrero does, however, believe it will be able to trace the entire supply chain by 2020.

Until then, it’s unclear where that leaves customers. Based on the sheer weight of hazelnuts it buys from Turkey, it would seem almost inevitable that child labour would be used to pick at least pick some of those used in Nutella.

It’s been a much-loved food in Australia where it’s served warm on tap from ice-cream stores and injected into cronuts at cafes.

Australian supermarkets have responded accordingly to the BBC report with concern. Coles confirmed it had reached out to Ferrero regarding the claims.

“Under their Terms of Trade with Coles, proprietary brand suppliers agree to uphold the Coles Group Ethical Sourcing Policy and manage human rights risks in their supply chains. If a proprietary brand supplier finds confirmed non-conformances in their supply chain, Coles’ expectation is that they will address and remediate these issues,” a Coles spokesperson told Business Insider Australia.

Woolworths also confirmed it had reached out to its supplier.

Neither company would comment on whether the product would be pulled if the answers they received were unsatisfactory.