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Girl Scouts call on cookie bakers to address child labor

Associated Press

The Girl Scouts of the USA said Wednesday that child labor has no place in its iconic cookies and called on the two companies that bake them to act quickly to address any potential abuses linked to the palm oil in their supply chains.

The comments were sent in the form of a tweet to Associated Press reporters who released an investigation Tuesday linking Girl Scout cookies and the supply chains of other well-known food brands to an estimated tens of thousands of children who often work unpaid for long hours in hazardous conditions to help harvest palm fruits on plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia.

A child carries palm kernels collected from the ground at a palm oil plantation in Sumatra, Indonesia, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017.

“Child labor has no place in Girl Scout Cookie production,” the Girl Scouts tweeted. “Our investment in the development of our world’s youth must not be facilitated by the under-development of some.”

Original report: Child labor in palm oil industry tied to Girl Scout cookies

Update: US bans second Malaysian palm oil giant over forced labor

The Girl Scouts also referred to a not-for-profit global organization it belongs to called the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, which promotes ethical production, including the treatment of workers, writing: “If certain suppliers are not following ethical practices, we expect our bakers and RSPO to take action quickly to rectify those exceptions.”

The Girl Scouts had not responded to repeated requests from the AP for comment about the findings ahead of Tuesday’s story, which found many children working in the palm oil industry do not have access to adequate school or healthcare and that some never learn to read or write. The story detailed how others live in fear of being rounded up by police and tossed in detention centers because they were born on plantations to parents who are working illegally, and how girls are vulnerable to sexual abuse.

Olivia Chaffin displays a 2017 response she received from the chief executive officer of the Girl Scouts to her concerns with palm oil being used in Girl Scout Cookies in Jonesborough, Tenn., on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. "I thought Girl Scouts was supposed to be about making the world a better place," she said. "But this isn't at all making the world better."

Reporters traced child labor to the supply chain of one of the Girl Scout cookies’ bakers, Little Brownie Bakers, owned by the Italian confectionary brand Ferrero, which did not comment on the findings. The other baker and its parent company, Canada-based Weston Foods, did not provide any details about its supply chain, citing proprietary reasons. Both said they were committed to sourcing sustainable palm oil.