Well-established UK cereal 'Shreddies', famously advertised as 'knitted by nanas' by brand owner Nestlé are, in fact, knitted in filthy sweatshops in some of the poorest districts of China, says Hampshire Trading Standards.
'Chinese children as young as eleven months old are being forced to work long hours in appalling conditions whilst knitting finely spun wheat strands into the well-known breakfast squares,' said Trading Standards Officer Jeff Mantell, 'just so that we have a fabulously tasty and healthy start to the day at a reasonable price. It's simply not acceptable.'
Nestlé has been keen to distance itself from reports of child exploitation but are heavily implicated after contradictory information came to light. In a statement the company claimed that they were unaware that the nanas were not knitting the product themselves, though they failed to explain how they believed production levels could be so high with so few nanas available. However, documents released just this week as part of investigations into Primark show that Nestlé were recently working with advisers from the UK shopping chain who apparently had 'plenty of child resource available in India since that whole Panorama thing a couple of years ago'.
The chinese sweatshop workers are reported to endure long shifts, up to 27 hours per day, during which time each child is expected to knit a minimum of four boxfuls of the delicious crunchy treat. The better workers are moved up to knit more the complicated lines such as 'Coco Shreddies' and 'Frosted Shreddies' with the most exceptional knitters working on the premium 'Honey Nut Shreddies' product.
Each factory is ultimately run by a grannie 'overlord', responsible for the day-to-day operations of the plant. Children falling below quota are swiftly taken to see 'nana', most likely an ex-patriot UK grandmother with her own teenage grandchildren and a desperate need to admonish impressionable youngsters. 'At one factory we found the nana originally named in the advertising campaign as 'Ruth', only to discover that her real name was Ethel,' said Mr Mantell, 'and she was a little bit less friendly than depicted during her appearance on the commercials. We believe the portrayal on television may have been just an act.'
The work of the UK's leading Trading Standards team follows on from their successful prosecution of Kellogg's, owners of the Rice Krispies, after the snap, crackle and pop found in the cereal was discovered to have been created by Russian voice actors rather than being added by cartoon animations as the advertising campaign made it appear. 'We were totally committed on that case, refusing to give up,' said Mr Mantell, 'We beat Rice Krispies and we will do the same for Shreddies. We had issues with Nestlé's previous claim that their cereal 'kept hunger locked up till lunch', but other than our own hunches we had nothing really to work from. Once they became cocky and started advertising the leaders of their knitting cult on TV we had all the facts we needed to start our clamp down on this axis of evil.'
The investigators from Hampshire have been working diligently for several months to locate the head of the nanas' organisation, 'Pearl', but with little luck so far. 'The chinese workers just aren't keen to talk,' he said, 'We think this is partly down to punative measures handed out by the grandmothers and partly down to the fact that they have turned the child workers into addicts. It seems that although they do worry about being subjected to a thorough ticking off and some stern finger wagging, this is heavily outweighed by the thought of losing access to regular nursery rhymes, knee bouncing, cuddles and lashings of vanilla icecream with butterscotch sauce.'