THE owners of Yorkshire Tea are investigating claims that tea workers on an estate it uses in India are suffering dangerous and degrading living and working conditions.

Taylors of Harrogate, which owns the popular Yorkshire brand, said it was "extremely concerned" by the findings of an investigation by the BBC, and was investigating as a matter of urgency.

The BBC claimed workers in Assam, north-east India, were living in broken houses with terrible sanitation, and were so malnourished they were vulnerable to fatal illnesses.

It also claimed some workers were spraying chemicals without protection, and on some estates, child labour was being used.

It said a 14-year-old girl was found working on the Doomur Dullung estate, owned by Assam Company, which supplied British firms including Yorkshire Tea.

Assam Company has called the allegations "baseless and false."

Keith Writer, Taylor's sourcing director, said the family business welcomed the BBC’s efforts to raise awareness of the challenges that existed within the tea industry.

"As a values-led family business with ethical trading at our heart, we’re committed to improving working and living standards throughout the communities we source from," he said.

"We know that Assam is a challenging area to buy from. The UK buys just 1.5per cent of India’s tea output, reducing the UK tea industry’s ability to influence positive change. A complex political and cultural landscape further adds to this challenge. "

He said that because of this, Taylors was committed to continuing to working with others – such as its certification partner Rainforest Alliance and Ethical Tea Partnership - on a range of initiatives that were improving standards across the industry.

"There’s no easy solution, but we’re committed to working with others to drive the agenda," he added.