One of the leading ad agencies in Scandinavia, Kunde & Co., has caused uproar in the Danish retail business after accusing FDB, the Danish Cooperative Retail and Wholesale Society, of buying Central American bananas from Chiquita plantations employing child labour.

After a special research tour to Central America, the agency's PR subsidiary "Dokumentar" made a pitch to FDB. Dokumentar presented FDB with information about criticisable conditions in child labour on banana plantations there. Then the PR company offered FDB help in handling the information to the public, at a total cost of DKr850,000 (US$95,800). According to an article in the Danish daily Berlingske Tidende, the PR company also apparently supplied information on the competitors' suppliers Del Monte and Dole, who sell to Edeka and Dansk Supermarked. Dokumentar also offered FDB "that we can with our background knowledge about Chiquita and about the competitive suppliers like Del Monte and Dole, help FDB with an offensive to profile itself actively in the banana area."

FDB has refused the offer, which has caused uproar, also among FDB's competitors.

The consequence has been a number of firings. Three staff from the Dokumentar group have been fired immediately. But the case has damaged the credibility of the whole public relations trade in Denmark.

FDB, however, thinks that the case will not have long lasting consequences for itself. Jens Juul Nielsen, FDB's communications manager said to newspaper Politiken "The distrust won't remain for long because I think in reality that we have more credibility than a Copenhagen-based ad agency." The company has had an unqualified apology from the owner of Kunde & Co.

The reports from the environmental organisation Nepenthes have not revealed any child labour on Chiquita's plantations. And SiD's (trade union) international division has received no reports ofchild labour either.

By Penny Leese, correspondent