(NC) While out shopping, have you ever stopped to ask whether the cereal, chocolate bar or skincare product you’re about to drop into your cart was produced with child labour? If you see palm oil in the list of ingredients, you probably should.

Palm oil is a common ingredient in a growing list of cosmetics, processed foods and everyday staples on store shelves across Canada. The ingredient has faced criticism from environmental groups who say the global increase in production has led to ever-higher rates of rainforest destruction and loss of wildlife habitat.

However, what most people don’t realize is that the industry is also under fire from human rights groups for serious abuses, including the use of child labour.

“I think if more people were aware of the human rights concerns related to the cosmetics they are applying to their skin, or the foods they’re eating, it might make them sick,” says Fiona Koza, Amnesty International Canada’s campaigner for business and human rights.

“People don’t want to buy products made with child labour, but right now companies are buying their palm oil from a source whose record is fraught with serious human rights abuses.”

A recent report by Amnesty International shows that one of the biggest producers of palm oil in the world has children as young as eight years old working in its Indonesian facilities. In many cases, children work without safety equipment in plantations where toxic pesticides are used, carrying heavy sacks of palm fruit that can weigh over 50 pounds.

The palm oil produced here is being used to supply some of the largest multi-national producers of food and cosmetics. So far, those companies have refused to disclose which of their products use ingredients tainted by child labour. Until they come clean about that, it’s best to keep checking your labels or write them a letter and demand answers.

Find more information at www.amnesty.ca/palmoil.

www.newscanada.com