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15 Jan 2016

Jane Deith, BBC News

3 UK tea brands drop Indian supplier over work conditions

Three of the UK's top tea brands have stopped buying from a group of Indian plantations after a BBC investigation exposed dangerous working conditions. The BBC found a disregard for health and safety on an estate in north-east India owned by Assam Company. The Rainforest Alliance, an ethical certification organisation, has now stripped a group of Assam Company's plantations of its green frog seal. The Assam Company said it was appealing against the decision...The Assam Company said the loss of its certification was because of a "minor error" on one estate...Twinings, Taylors of Harrogate and Fortnum & Mason have suspended business with the company while Harrods took the tea off its shelves shortly after the investigation, which was broadcast in September. Workers at the company's Hajua estate were seen spraying agrochemicals without the protective equipment employers are required to provide, when the BBC visited. Men spraying reported breathing difficulties, numbness of the hands and face, a burning sensation on the skin and profound loss of appetite...Taylors of Harrogate said it will maintain a relationship with the estates and support efforts to improve standards. Twinings plans to continue working with the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP) - an organisation set up by UK tea companies to improve workers' lives - to monitor the working and living conditions on all the tea estates from which it buys. It also plans to conduct a review of the Assam estates it sources from in the next few months...The Moran and Behora tea estates supply the companies that own PG Tips [owned by Unilever] and Tetley, as well as Twinings...Tata, which makes Tetley, said it has met with the producers to understand their plans to address the issues...It has been in discussion with the Rainforest Alliance and says it is committed to the fair and ethical treatment of people across its supply chain.