Lawsuit targets Cargill, food makers for child labor in cocoa supply

Lawsuit targets Cargill, food makers for child labor in cocoa supply  Star Tribune

Lawsuit targets Cargill, food makers for child labor in cocoa supply

Activists Accuse Cargill and Other Food Companies of Child Labor in Cocoa Farms

Activists have filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, accusing major food companies Cargill, Mondelez, and Mars Inc. of purchasing cocoa from West African farms that employ child labor in unsafe conditions. The lawsuit claims that these companies have not taken sufficient action to address the use of child workers in their sourcing plantations, despite their pledges to eliminate child labor in their supply chains.

Previous Lawsuit Dismissed by U.S. Supreme Court

In 2021, a similar lawsuit targeting Nestle and Cargill was dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court after 16 years of litigation. However, activists have continued to pressure these companies to fulfill their commitments. The newly filed lawsuit accuses the companies of unjust enrichment, negligent supervision, theft, and consumer fraud.

Cargill Responds to Allegations

Cargill, a major cocoa supplier and the largest privately held company in the U.S., stated that forced child labor is unacceptable. The company expressed seriousness about the allegations and mentioned that they had just learned about the filing and could not comment on the specifics of the case.

Class-Action Lawsuit Seeks Justice for Affected Child Cocoa Workers

The lawsuit filed is a class-action lawsuit aiming to include all affected child cocoa workers in Ghana. It relies on different laws than the previous case dismissed by the Supreme Court, which has been refiled and remains pending.

Stories of Child Labor in Cocoa Plantations

The lawsuit includes accounts of seven children who work on cocoa plantations in Ghana that Cargill reportedly sources from. The suit alleges that children as young as six use sharp machetes in the fields and apply pesticides without protective equipment, leading to sickness and dizziness.

Extent of Child Labor in Cocoa Production

A study conducted by the University of Chicago, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, found that 1.5 million children in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, which account for 60% of the global cocoa supply, worked in cocoa production in 2018 and 2019. The study also revealed that a significant number of children engaged in dangerous tasks.

Cargill’s Efforts Towards Sustainable Cocoa Supply Chain

Cargill directly sources cocoa from various countries and employs 4,700 people in its cocoa business. The company established a “Cocoa Promise” in 2012 to achieve a transparent and sustainable cocoa supply chain while improving the livelihoods of farmers and their communities. Cargill has implemented a Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation System, monitoring 93,000 cocoa farming households from its sourcing sites in the past year. The company aims to address the root causes of child labor through preventative measures such as community development, women’s empowerment, and opportunities for youth.

Outlook of the Lawsuit

The lead counsel representing the plaintiffs believes that the new lawsuit will withstand judicial scrutiny and compel Cargill and other companies to take further action. An initial hearing for the case has been scheduled for March 1.


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