Major chocolate companies cleared of latest key US child labour lawsuit brought by Mali citizens

Major chocolate brands including Hershey, Nestle, Mars, Mondelez and Cargill have recently been cleared in a lawsuit brought by eight individuals from Mali in a key case involving alleged child slavery in Ivory Coast cocoa farms, according to Reuters.

The case, which follows rejection by the American Supreme Court of a similar court battle last June in the US, was heard by US district Judge Dabney Friedrich, who rejected the case against the key global confectionery companies.

Notably, all seven leading confectionery companies involved in the case said they strong condemned forced child labour practices, though the issue remains a considerable matter for concern in the key region of West Africa, where two thirds of cocoa is sourced from and around 1.5 million minors have been found to be exposed to child labour practices amid a backdrop of significant poverty, pandemic pressures and weakened agricultural commodity prices.

However, according to the judge’s consideration of the claims in the latest US court battle, Reuters said that the case was dismissed on the basis that the group of Mali men attempting to bring the case had failed to show¬†a “traceable connection” between the seven defendant companies and the specific plantations where they worked.

Significantly, in coverage of the case, the judge reportedly said the plaintiffs also did not adequately explain the role of intermediaries in the cocoa supply chain, noting that the companies did not monitor activity in “free zones” where about 70% to 80% of the cocoa is produced.

In putting their case forward, the plaintiffs said they were trafficked as children after being approached by unfamiliar men who promised paying jobs, but were ultimately not paid for their labor, threatened with starvation if they did not work, and required to live in squalor. Their lawyer is reported to be mounting an appeal agains the Washington judge’s verdict.

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