India’s Som Distilleries and Breweries has sought to distance the company from reports of child labour, pointing to contractors.

According to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), India’s children’s rights agency, 39 children and teenagers had been found working in a liquor factory that was supplying the publicly listed group.

NCPCR chairperson Priyank Kanoongo wrote on social media platform X that underage workers had been found during an inspection of a plant in Madhya Pradesh’s Raisen district and the issue was brought to the police’s attention.

Reuters yesterday (17 June) reported India’s police had launched an investigation into Som Distilleries and Breweries after the complaint from the NCPCR.

In a stock-exchange filing, Som Distilleries and Breweries said “these concerns are not related to Som Distilleries and Breweries Limited but relate to our associate private limited company which deals in country liquor primarily and not the listed company as reported”.

The company, home to brands including Milestone Blue whisky and White Fox vodka, said contractors supply the unnamed associated company with labour.

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It added: “It may be the fault of the contractors who may not have got proper age verification done of the workers being allowed to work at that company. That company has extended full cooperation to the authorities regarding the issue and have terminated the services of the vendor through the directors of that company.”

The police complaint noted some of the children had chemical burns on their hands, images of which Kanoongo has posted on social media.

Kanoongo also raised concerns the 39 children and teenagers found in the factory had “disappeared” that evening before being processed by the state.

Som Distilleries and Breweries has production facilities in Madhya Pradesh and Odisha.

Last year, the company was contracted by Carlsberg Group to produce its Carlsberg and Tuborg beers at its Odisha brewery.

For the 12 months ended 31 March 2024, Som Distilleries and Breweries reported income of Rs.12.8bn ($153.5m), compared to the year prior of Rs8.08bn. The group’s EBITDA was up 50% to Rs1.5bn.