Lawsuit states millions of consumers are duped into supporting slave
SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Purchasers of chocolate from Nestle,
Hershey Co. and Mars
Inc. have filed three class-action lawsuits against the food
companies for allegedly using child labor in the production of their
best-selling chocolate candy, including Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups®, Kit
Kat®, Twix®, MilkyWay®, Butterfinger®, BabyRuth®, M&Ms® and many others,
according to Hagens Berman.
The national class-action law firm filed its California class actions,
stating that the three corporations regularly import cocoa beans from
suppliers who use child labor, including trafficked and forced child
labor. Specifically, Hershey’s, Mars and Nestle import cocoa beans from
plantations in the Ivory Coast, according to the complaints.
The lawsuits state that in violation of California law, Hershey’s, Mars
and Nestle do not disclose that their suppliers in the Ivory Coast rely
on child laborers and instead continue to profit from the child labor
that supplies the chocolate sold to American consumers.
From 2013 to 2014 more than 1.1 million children in the Ivory Coast were
engaged in the most common Worst Forms of Child Labor as recognized by
the United Nations, according to the suit, up from 791,181 children from
2008 to 2009. The children subjected to the forced labor allegedly used
to make Mars, Hershey’s and Nestle chocolate are victims of hazardous
work such as that involving dangerous tools, transport of heavy loads
and exposure to toxic substances and the compulsory labor of trafficked
The suits state that such children are trafficked from countries
neighboring the Ivory Coast, sold to plantation owners by brokers and
smugglers, and forced to work under conditions of physical violence
without pay. According to the World Cocoa Foundation, 47 percent of the
total U.S. imports of cocoa beans come from the Ivory Coast.
“The consumers reaching out to our firm have been outraged to learn that
the candy they enjoy has a dark, bitter production cost – that child and
slave labor have been a part of Nestle, Mars and Hershey’s chocolate
processing,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman.
“These companies fail to disclose their use of child and forced labor,
tricking consumers into indirectly supporting the use of such labor.”
“The lives of the people who harvest cocoa are nothing short of
terrible,” the complaint reads. “Some of these children are abducted,
and there are countless missing
children claims. To make matters worse, sometimes extremely poor
people sell their own children into slavery for as little as $30.
Children that are sometimes not even 10 years old carry huge sacks that
are so big that they cause them serious physical harm. Much of the
world’s chocolate is quite literally brought to us by the back-breaking
labor of child slaves.”
The suits state that most chocolate candy produced by Nestle, Mars or
Hershey’s is affected, including Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups®, Kit Kat®,
Mounds®, York Peppermint Patties®, Hershey’s® milk chocolate bars,
Almond Joy®, Cadbury® chocolates, M&Ms®, Snickers®, Twix®, 3Musketeers®,
MilkyWay®, Nestle Crunch®, BabyRuth®, Butterfinger® and 100 Grand®,
Hagens Berman has filed other lawsuits against major food manufacturers
and food marketers to support local communities, human rights and the
environment, including a California
case filed against Chiquita for misleading consumers and
manufacturing bananas in ways that poison local residents, destroy
ecosystems and contaminate drinking water. The firm also filed a lawsuit
against several large players in the dairy industry, including Land
O’Lakes Inc., alleging that the companies conspired to fix the price of
milk by prematurely slaughtering more than 500,000 cows.
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law
firm with offices in 10 cities. The firm has been named to the National
Law Journal’s Plaintiffs’ Hot List eight times. More about the law firm
and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com.
Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.
Ashley Klann, 206-268-9363