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Luxury Perfumes Linked To Child Labour

Children have picked ingredients used by suppliers to two major beauty companies, the BBC can reveal.

A BBC investigation into last summer's perfume supply chains found jasmine used by Lancôme and Aerin Beauty's suppliers was picked by minors.

All the luxury perfume brands claim to have zero tolerance on child labour.

L'Oréal, Lancôme's owner, said it was committed to respecting human rights. Estée Lauder, Aerin Beauty's owner, said it had contacted its suppliers.

The jasmine used in Lancôme Idôle L'Intense - and Ikat Jasmine and Limone Di Sicilia for Aerin Beauty - comes from Egypt, which produces about half the world's supply of jasmine flowers - a key perfume ingredient.

Industry insiders told us the handful of companies that own many luxury brands are squeezing budgets, resulting in very low pay. Egyptian jasmine pickers say this forces them to involve their children.

And we have discovered the auditing systems the perfume industry uses to check on supply chains are deeply flawed.

The UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Tomoya Obokata, said he was disturbed by the BBC's evidence, which includes undercover filming in Egyptian jasmine fields during last year's picking season.

"On paper, they [the industry] are promising so many good things, like supply chain transparency and the fight against child labour. Looking at this footage, they are not actually doing things that they promised to do."

Heba - who lives in a village in the district of Gharbia, the heart of Egypt's jasmine region - wakes her family at 03:00 to begin picking the flowers before the sun's heat damages them.

Heba says she needs her four children - aged from 5 to 15 - to help. Like most jasmine pickers in Egypt, she is what is known as an "independent picker" and works on a smallholder farm. The more she and her children can pick, the more they earn.

On the night we filmed her, she and her children managed to pick 1.5kg of jasmine flowers. After paying a third of her earnings to the land owner, she was left with roughly US$1.5 [£1.18] for that night's work. This is worth less than ever before, given inflation in Egypt is at an all-time high, and pickers are often living below the poverty line.