Three anonymous former child slaves from Mali first filed the lawsuit in 2005. Supreme Court this month refused to dismiss a lawsuit against Nestlé and two other companies claiming they knew of child slavery at cocoa plantations in West Africa.They said they carried 100-pound bags of cocoa and were exposed to dangerous working conditions on plantations.They worked 12-14 hours per day, six days a week without pay, and received only scraps of food to eat.Their masters severely beat them with whips and tree branches for attempting to flee.At night, the children slept on the floor in a small, locked room with a tin can as their toilet.One slave, known as John Doe II, witnessed the guards cutting open the feet of other small children who tried to escape.Another slave, “John Doe III,” knew of guards who forced children to drink their own urine.
Child trafficking has plagued the industry for years.In 2001, several corporations halted a congressional bill that would have created a consumer label on cocoa products certifying the ingredients were not grown or harvested using child labor.Instead, Congress adopted a voluntary agreement with corporations to work toward ending the practice. Department of Labor reported there were 2.12 million child slaves in Ivory Coast and Ghana working in cocoa production, more than double the number in 2014.Meanwhile, child slavery in West Africa continued to grow. “Every time you eat their chocolate you are benefitting from child slavery,” said Patti Rundall, policy director at International Baby Food Action Network.