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Mars, Nestlé, Hershey, and other companies are all being sued for child slavery after eight young adults claim that they were used for slave labor on their cocoa plants on the Ivory Coast.
According to The Guardian, the young adults are all from Mali and seek damages for “forced labor and further compensation for unjust enrichment, negligent supervision, and intentional infliction of emotional distress” when they were children.
This also marks the first time a class-action lawsuit is being filed against the cocoa industry in a U.S. court. It is also believed that this case is only one of many instances of child abuse and slave labor in the industry. The Ivory Coast is responsible for 45% of the world's cocoa supply and has long been linked to human rights abuses, structural poverty, low pay, and illegal child labor.
The court papers also say that the plaintiffs claim that they sustained injuries from machete accidents while working at the farms and that the farms knowingly profited from their labor without their knowledge at the time.
One of the companies in question being sued, Cargill, released a statement responding to the lawsuit, saying it has no tolerance for child labor in cocoa production.
“We are aware of the filing and while we cannot comment on specifics of this case right now, [the company wants] to reinforce we have no tolerance for child labor in cocoa production,” the statement read. “Children belong in school. They deserve safe living conditions and access to good nutrition.”
Nestlé also released a statement saying it “does not advance the shared goal of ending child labor in the cocoa industry” and added, “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.”