This story will run and run. Allegations of poor working conditions at the Chinese factories that build Apple’s iPads and iPhones have been made on a number of ocasions. But the latest set of acusations, broadcast on US public radio show This American Life in January, have been questioned and the show has retracted the episode, called “Mr Daisey and the Apple Factory”.

In the radio programme, actor Mike Daisey visits a Shenzhen factory — owned by Foxconn — that manufactures iPhones and iPads to tell listeners of the tough working conditions. He has performed the monologue in theatres around the US and the show was the most popular on This American Life with more thann 888,000 downloads.

However, a reporter from another US public radio show interviewed the interpreter that Mr Daisey used for his factory visits and discovered that the interpreter disputed much of the allegations in the programme.

For example, in his monologue Mr Daisey claims to have met a group of workers who were poisoned on an iPhone assembly line by a chemical called n-hexane. Apple’s audits of its suppliers show that an incident like this occurred in a Foxcon facility in Souzhou but not in Shenzhen, where Daisey visited.

Confronted about this and other discrepancies, Mr Daisey said:

“I’m not going to say that I didn’t take a few shortcuts in my passion to be heard. My mistake, the mistake I truly regret, is that I had it on your show as journalism, and it’s not journalism. It’s theatre.”

The same month after This American Life aired the episode, The New York Times published reports about conditions at Foxconn factories.

Facing a scandal that just won’t die down, Apple has agreed to allow third-party audits of factories and has published a list of its suppliers.

While the retraction may some of the heat off Foxconn, the contract manufacturer responsible for making Apple’s iPads and iPhones, conditions are likely to be continue to be monitored even more closedly by pressure groups and investment managers with a “socially responsible investing” mandate.

See this Reuters story for more.

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