Court Rules Chocolate Companies Don’t Need to Disclose Child Slave Labor Practices

Identical rulings were issued for two class action lawsuits against Nestlé and Hershey

Shutterstock / iprachenko

Both companies were sued in September 2015 for their labor practices.

A federal judge has issued identical rulings regarding two class action lawsuits against Nestlé and Hershey. The court ruled that the chocolate companies “have no duty to disclose that their cocoa suppliers use child slave labor,” reports Courthouse News.

The complaints cite a Tulane University study, which states that more than 4,000 children work at forced labor plantations in Ivory Coast to produce cocoa.

In the ruling, U.S. district judge Joseph Spero writes, “There are countless issues that may be legitimately important to many customers, and the courts are not suited to determine which should occupy the limited surface area of a chocolate wrapper.”

He continues, referencing a similar class action lawsuit ruling against Mars, “The court agrees with Judge Seeborg's conclusion that the weight of authority limits a duty to disclose under the Consumer Legal Remedies Act to issues of product safety, unless disclosure is necessary to counter an affirmative misrepresentation. Further, the court agrees with Judge Seeborg and Hershey that some bright-line limitation on a manufacturer's duty to disclose is sound policy, given the difficulty of anticipating exactly what information some customers might find material to their purchasing decisions and wish to see on product labels.”

A Nestlé representative tells The Daily Meal, “We are pleased with the court's decision to dismiss this case. Consumer class actions are not the way to solve such a serious and complex issue as child labor. The use of child labor goes against everything Nestlé stands for and we are committed to eradicating it from our supply chain. We have made this a priority for our company and continue to take dedicated action, working together with other stakeholders, to eliminate this unacceptable practice from our cocoa supply.”

Hershey’s says, “We are pleased that the court recognized that this lawsuit had no merit. At Hershey, we do not tolerate unacceptable forms of child labor and remain committed to eliminating it the cocoa-growing regions of West Africa. We know this is an enormous challenge. As a single company, we know we cannot do it alone. We support large-scale, multi-stakeholder efforts as a member of the industry’s CocoaAction initiative and continue to accelerate our own programs to address this important issue.”

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