Massachusetts Consumers Sue Nestle for Allegedly Using Child and Slave Labor to Make Chocolate
Lawsuit states millions of consumers are duped into supporting dangerous and forced child labor
BOSTON – Consumers from Massachusetts today filed a class-action lawsuit against Nestle for allegedly regularly importing cocoa beans from suppliers in the Ivory Coast using the worst forms of child labor as recognized by the UN, including dangerous child labor and the slave labor of trafficked children, according to Hagens Berman.
The law firm says most consumers would be shocked to learn the truth of the source of their favorite candies named in the lawsuit. Much of the chocolate candy produced by Nestle is affected, including Nestle Crunch®, BabyRuth®, Butterfinger® and 100 Grand® among others.
If you live in Massachusetts and would not have purchased these candies had you known the truth about their source and the use of child labor, contact our legal team to find out your rights against Nestle.
“Consumers across the country would be shocked to learn the horrible truth, that much of the world’s chocolate is brought to us by back-breaking forced labor of child slaves,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman. “This food conglomerate has perpetuated this, knowingly choosing suppliers for its cocoa beans that rely on child slave labor.”
The suit cites a report from CNN that interviewed a 10-year-old child slave, “…a three-year veteran of the job. He has never tasted chocolate.”
The lawsuit filed on Feb. 12, 2018, in Massachusetts federal court, states that in violation of Massachusetts law, Nestle does not disclose that its suppliers in the Ivory Coast rely on child laborers and instead continues to profit from the child labor that supplies the chocolate sold to American consumers. Most of these child laborers engage in dangerous work, and some are even subject to conditions of modern-day slavery.
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 making 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 some 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.
Dangerous and Forced Child Labor in the Cocoa Industry
“The lives of the people who harvest cocoa are nothing short of terrible,” the complaint reads. Children as young as five “perform dangerous tasks, including carrying heavy loads, using machetes and sharp tools, and applying pesticides and fertilizers,” with injuries rife among the young workforce. And “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 complaint goes on, detailing the sickening conditions perpetuated by candy maker Nestle: “These children are held against their will on isolated farms, are locked in their living quarters at night, and are threatened and beaten if they attempt to escape. They are punished by their employers with physical abuse. They are forced to work long hours, including overtime, and are required to work even when they are sick. Some children are denied sufficient food by their traffickers and employers.”
Hagens Berman has filed other lawsuits against major food manufacturers and food marketers to support local communities, human rights and the environment, including a lawsuit against several large players in the dairy industry that settled for $52 million, alleging that the companies conspired to fix the price of milk by prematurely slaughtering more than 500,000 cows. Another recent suit was filed against Wal-Mart and its egg supplier, Cal-Maine Foods, for misrepresentations regarding the treatment of egg-laying hens.
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About Hagens Berman
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law firm with 11 offices across the country. 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.
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