Nestlé, Mars, Mondelēz, Cargill, Barry Callebaut, Olam and Hershey have been named as defendants in the lawsuit
A human rights group filed a lawsuit on behalf of eight children who say they were trafficked and forced to harvest cocoa for popular chocolate companies.
Nestle, Mars, Mondelez, Cargill, Barry Callebaut, Olam and Hershey have been named as defendants in the lawsuit, which has been filed in Washington DC, United States by the human rights organization International Rights Advocates (IRA), The Guardian reported.
The children have claimed they were used as slave labour on cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast, and have alleged the big chocolate companies have been aiding and abetting enslavement of thousands of poor children for cocoa farming.
As per the allegation, the children were forced to work without any pay and in inhumane conditions in the West African country.
According to The Guardian, the plaintiffs are all originally from Mali and are now seeking damages for the forced labour they have been subjected to for years.
They are also looking for compensation for unjust enrichment, negligent supervision and intentional emotional distress they were subjected to for years.
While this is the first time such a case against these big companies, there have been several documents and reports that have highlighted such situations and experiences of several other minors.
Numerous reports have, in the past, talked about the abuse of human rights, low pay and structural abuse of power and poverty, and child labour in West Africa, which supplies nearly 45% of cocoa to the world.
The eight children have accused the companies of recruiting them in Mali using trickery and deception and also alleges they were trafficked across the border to Ivory Coast's cocoa farms.
These children had clear signs of injuries through accidents on their hands and arms. Majority of them said they were promised payment after the harvest, but the promises were never kept and they were forced to work every day for long hours and were usually kept alone.
A spokesperson for Hershey said: “We understand and agree with the concerns about the heart-breaking instances of child and forced labour. Hershey does not tolerate child or forced labour in our supply chain. These human rights violations have no place in the global cocoa industry, and we are committed to ending it. Effectively eliminating human rights violations and addressing the underlying issue of poverty that is the root cause of these labour violations requires significant investment and intervention on the ground in West Africa, not in the courts.”
"Child labour is unacceptable and goes against everything we stand for. Nestle has explicit policies against it and is unwavering in our dedication to ending it. We remain committed to combatting child labour within the cocoa supply chain and addressing its root causes as part of the Nestle Cocoa Plan and through collaborative efforts," Nestle said.