Hershey’s chocolate tainted with child exploitation, group charges

July 15 2011


Consumer  rights activists are asking chocolate lovers to think twice before  buying Hershey products this summer  because the chocolate is tainted  with forced and child labor.

Leaders  of the Raise the Bar Hershey Campaign say it’s been nearly 10 years  since chocolate companies, including Hershey’s, signed a protocol  committing them to eliminating abusive child labor, forced labor and  trafficking from their cocoa supply chains. However researchers found  that such abuses continue to exist in West African cocoa farms,  especially in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, where Hershey purchases most of  its cocoa to produce its chocolate bars and other products.

Campaign  leaders are urging consumers to take a stand against Hershey’s labor  violations. Although many of the biggest chocolate companies have  started to use cocoa that has been certified by independent, third  parties to comply with international labor standards, Hershey continues  to lag behind.

Amanda  Kloer, editor of Change.org, said she is getting the word out to  consumers that they should choose other brands for their campfire treats  until Hershey makes a commitment to ending child labor in its cocoa  supply chain by shifting to fair-trade-certified cocoa.

“As  chocolate lovers we want Hershey to buy better cocoa,” said Kloer. “We  also want the company to be transparent about where they buy their cocoa  and to ensure child abuses are not tainting their products. We need  Hershey to step up and take responsibility for what’s really going on.”

Kloer  said consumer activists are leaving “Consumer Alert” cards on the  shelves in front of Hershey products, as well as on Hershey’s S’mores  promotional displays. The alert cards include a code to allow shoppers  to take action on their smartphones in the store as part of a larger  campaign, including an online petition with over  13,000 supporters.

“Consumers  have tremendous power to change the unethical practices of companies,”  says Kloer. “That’s why activists are using the online platforms and  innovative organizing strategies like QR codes to educate and empower  consumers to take action.”

Maria  Louzon, student organizer with United Students for Fair Trade, said,  “For too long Hershey has ignored consumer requests to buy ethical,  certified cocoa for its chocolate bars. We hope Hershey won’t be able to  ignore the message when it’s placed on its products.”

Kloer  says a broad consumer movement by people who want major companies to  sell ethically produced products is driving the Hershey campaign. She  hopes the campaign will get Hershey’s attention and force them respond  to consumers’ concerns.

Nonprofit  groups Green America, International Labor Rights Forum, and Global  Exchange are organizing the campaign. Over 42,000 consumers have taken  action by sending e-mails and postcards, signing petitions, and making  phone calls to the company asking it to end child labor. Consumers  interested in participating can go to www.raisethebarhershey.org to download a consumer alert card, print it out, and film and upload their own experiences.

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