Chocolate manufacturers Nestlé, Mars and Hershey's have been brought to an American court because of alleged child labour on their cacao plantations. Some 1.5 million children apparently work on their plantations in the Ivory Coast and Ghana alone.
3 "class action suits" in California
The manufacturers of brands like Kit Kat, M&Ms, MilkyWay, Reese's and Butterfinger has been subpoenaed in three "class action suits" in California. According to the Hagens Berman law firm, the three food giants have broken Californian law by ignoring to mention their suppliers in the Ivory Coast use children as employees. "The consumers reaching out to our firm have been outraged to learn that the candy they enjoy has a dark, bitter production cost."
The firm refers to a report, by the international NGO Labor Rights Forum, stating that plantations in Ivory Coast and Ghina alone use 1.5 to 2 million children, nearly a fifth more than 5 years ago.
"We are a part of the solution"
In a first statement, the three companies mention that child labour is "unacceptable and despicable" and that they do everything in their power to deal with the problem. They do immediately point out that the problem is incredibly complex and inextricably linked to local economic, social and political challenges, including poverty and famine.
Nestlé, Mars and Hershey's say they invest several hundreds of millions to improve the living conditions of the local populace, in order to allow children to go to school instead of having to work at the plantations. They all collaborate with local and international organizations to get 100 % certified cacao by 2020.
"The issue cannot be properly addressed through lawsuits such as the one just filed in California. On the contrary, we are part of the solution", they say.