Published On: Mon, Feb 15th, 2021

Hershey, Mars and Nestle Sued Over Child Labor

They are accused of using slave labor in chocolate harvesting in Africa.

Major chocolate manufacturers Mars, Nestlé and Hershey, Cargill, Mondelēz, Barry Callebaut, and Olam are being sued for abusing child labor in Africa. Specifically, eight children charge that they were the victims of child slavery on a chocolate plantation in the nation of Ivory Coast. The companies refute the allegations.

The human rights firm International Rights Advocates (IRA) filed the class action suit in a Federal court in Washington D.C. On behalf of the children who said that they managed to escape from the plantation and return home to their native country Mali. IRA accuses the companies of having a long history of “violating the law and participating in a venture in Cote D’Ivoire that relies upon child slaves to produce cheap cocoa.” The organization says that in spite of these companies having promised to reduce child labor in their chocolate harvesting and production, “their use of child labor is actually getting worse”.

NRA cites a study by NORC at the University of Chicago and funded by the U.S. Department of Labor which concluded that 1.56 million child laborers were working in cocoa growing areas of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana in the 2018/19 growing season, an increase of 14 percent since a 2015 study.

Child labor is a major issue throughout the world. Time and again reports have surfaced that a favorite clothing brand or toy company in America relies on some form of abusive labor practices in order to keep their prices low. American labor unions also look at this as a form of unfair competition. But this is in manufacturing. Certain crops like cocoa can only be grown in certain parts of the world.

The accused companies have responded to the allegations in different statements. Cargill, said, “We are aware of the filing and while we cannot comment on specifics of this case right now.” It added that the company has, “no tolerance for child labor in cocoa production. Children belong in school. They deserve safe living conditions and access to good nutrition.”

Nestlé released its own statement saying that, “child labor is unacceptable and goes against everything we stand for. Nestlé has explicit policies against it and is unwavering in our dedication to ending it. We remain committed to combating child labor within the cocoa supply chain and addressing its root causes as part of the Nestlé Cocoa Plan and through collaborative efforts.”

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