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24 Apr 2019

Emily Field, Law360

USA: Class action lawsuit filed against Nestle for child slavery on cocoa harvest in West African farms

'"Sustainable' Nestle Cocoa Made With Child Slavery, Suit Says", 22 Apr 2019

A proposed class action filed Friday in California federal court claims that child slaves on West African farms harvest cocoa for Nestle, even though it labels its products as "sustainably sourced."

The world's largest food company has known for more than a decade that its supply chain is tainted with child labor, but its use of seals claiming that its cocoa is sustainably sourced sways consumers into believing that its products follow socially and environmentally responsible standards, according to named plaintiff Renee Walker.

"For years, Nestle has reaped the benefit of affirmatively mislabeling products as sustainable and helpful to farmers when, in fact, they source their cocoa from farms that cause environmental devastation and use child slave labor," Helen I. Zeldes of Coast Law Group, an attorney for Walker, told Law360 on Monday. "We look forward to litigating this important consumer case on behalf of our client and the putative class."

A Massachusetts federal judge in January dismissed a similar suit alleging Nestle USA Inc. failed to disclose that its chocolate may have been made with slave and child labor, finding the plaintiff in that case didn't state a claim under Massachusetts law.

Nestle is also pushing the Ninth Circuit for a full-court rehearing of its decision to revive a proposed class action accusing it of aiding and abetting child slavery.

A Nestle spokesperson told Law360 on Monday that it has prevailed in similar suits and the company is confident this one will also be decided in its favor.

"Forced child labor is unacceptable and has no place in our supply chain. We have explicit policies against it and are working with other stakeholders to combat this global social problem," the spokesperson said. "Regrettably, in bringing such lawsuits, the plaintiffs' class action lawyers are targeting the very organizations trying to fight forced labor."...