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9 Items in Your Kitchen That Might Have Been Made by Slaves

Slavery has not been consigned to the history books.

There are 40 million people in slavery today — more than at any point in human history. It exists in almost every country and is a global industry generating over £1.1 billion every year.

But did you know that you could be unwittingly funding it?

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In September the UK announced an additional £20 million to the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery, which will partner with the US to fight the problem all over the world. Britain will also seek to leverage $1.5 billion in global commitments to address the resourcing gap.

Today is Anti-Slavery Day, and International Justice Mission (IJM) — the world's largest anti-slavery organisation — have compiled a list of everyday items where modern slavery plays a part in its production. They’ve rescued over 40,000 people from slavery and violent injustice, so they know a thing or two about its causes.

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Be vigilant. Your kitchen might be hiding some dark secrets.

Rice

It’s the world’s most common food staple. But some families are forced to work grueling 15-hour days wading in rice paddies, harvesting the grain and processing it for market. Where does the rice in your cupboard come from?

Read More: Yes, Slavery Still Exists — These Countries Are the Worst Offenders

Carpet

Thousands of children work in India’s carpeting industry. Some have been sold by to traffickers by people they know — sometimes even by their own parents. India has a slave population five times bigger than any other country in the world, and the government have pledged to end it by 2030.

Roses

Nothing says “I love you” more than roses. But of the 40 million slaves in the world, one in four of them are children. Many are forced to work on rose farms, picking at thorny flowers until their fingers bleed.

Prawns

In the UK we consume 85,000 tonnes of prawns each year — many of which come from Thailand. Human trafficking is widespread in Thailand’s seafood industry, where labourers work up to 20 hours a day, underpaid, and often subject to extreme violence.

Coffee

Do you know where your morning caffeine fix is coming from? We drink approximately 70 million cups of coffee every day in the UK every single day. The unpalatable truth is that some of that coffee has been produced by people in forced labour. Children are denied access to education, starved and abused.

Read More: The UK Government Has Pledged £20M to Say ‘Enough Is Enough’ to Modern Slavery

Clothes

What’s the true cost of cheap fashion? The International Labour Organisation estimates that 152 million — more than twice the population of the UK — are engaged in child labour. In the worst cases, these children are slaves living in desperate conditions. But many are making textiles and garments to satisfy the the demand for cheap fashion in the West. Corners are cut in the workplace, meaning that serious injuries and fires are commonplace.

“I thought of running away,” said Ajay, a young man recently rescued by Indian police from enslavement in a clothing factory. “But others who had run away were brought back and beaten with iron rods, tortured with long needles and locked in a room for several days.”

Jewellery

Was the price of your necklace the price of someone’s freedom? Slave owners in the mining industry trap entire families in slavery for generations with no hope of freedom. The work in mines and rock quarries are so dangerous that the use of children in gold and diamond mining officially falls under the worst forms of child labour.

Wood

Slaves trapped in wood cutting facilities around the world can be forced to produce one tonne of wood a day. In India, an IJM aftercare program rescued a family from four years spent in a tree cutting unit — but it was after a mother called Kalpanna had already lost a son from years of hunger and abuse.

“The biggest privilege in my life is freedom from bondage,” Kalpanna told IGM. Now, she runs her own tailoring business.

Chocolate

Life for those who farm chocolate is anything but sweet. Many cocoa farmers and workers live below the poverty line, earning less than $2 a day. Young children have been found working as slaves after being abducted or sold into slavery. Beatings are common and many will never see their families again.