Mars, the candy manufacturer, is facing allegations of utilizing child labor following a CBS investigation into the cocoa bean supply chain. The Virginia-based company asserts its dedication to eradicating child labor from its operations by 2025, but according to CBS, it is far from reaching that objective.
CBS revealed the findings of an inquiry into cocoa cultivation in Ghana on November 29. Cocoa beans, a crucial component in chocolate production, are imported by major U.S. candy manufacturers at an annual value exceeding $5 billion.
Cocoa imports originate from various regions, such as the Far East and South America, with the Ivory Coast and Ghana being the primary contributors as the largest producers.
CBS investigators journeyed through Ghana’s cocoa belt, spanning the southern region of the country renowned for producing the world’s premium-quality cocoa. During their exploration, they discovered children engaged in labor on every farm they visited. These young workers were involved in tasks such as harvesting pods and using machetes to open them, extracting the valuable cocoa beans.
The labor is challenging and perilous, particularly considering that some children involved are as young as five years old, handling machetes nearly as long as their height. According to CBS, their reporters witnessed a distressing incident where one child came close to severing his own fingers.
The company is putting forth only symbolic measures to ensure the exclusion of children from farm labor. As per the network, inspectors employed by Mars fail to conduct follow-ups on individual children to ensure they have ceased working and are attending school.
A supervisor on the farm acknowledged fabricating lists of children supposedly attending school and expressed dissatisfaction that Mars hadn’t verified the accuracy of his statements.
A crucial aspect to note is that Mars doesn’t directly possess the cocoa farms. Instead, the company acquires Ghanaian cocoa from suppliers, who either own the farms themselves or purchase the beans from those who do.
Human rights attorney Terry Collingsworth believes there should be mechanisms in place to ensure that no children are engaged in cocoa harvesting. He has initiated a class action lawsuit against multiple U.S. chocolate manufacturers, including Mars.