SAN DIEGO (Legal Newsline) - A class action lawsuit filed in federal court in California accuses Nestle of using package labels that mislead consumers about the use of child labor and slave labor in the company's West African supply chain.
"Nestle has been acutely aware of the magnitude of unethical labor in its supply chain for more than a decade – indeed, it admits, albeit anemically, that two-thirds of its chocolate supply is tainted with child labor and/or child slave labor," alleges the suit filed April 19 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
"Notwithstanding knowing full well that its chocolate is primarily procured from farms using the worst forms of child labor, Nestle slaps bogus 'seals' on its products claiming its cocoa is 'sustainably sourced,' 'certified' and 'supports' or 'helps' farmers when it knows the opposite is true."
Nestle, in a statement, said the company expects the suit to be dismissed, and that the plaintiff's attorneys are "targeting the very organizations trying to fight forced child labor."
The plaintiffs attorneys are Coast Law Group, Schonbrun Seplow and Reese LLP, all of California.
The only current plaintiff is San Diego County resident Renee Walker, but her attorneys are asking the court to certify the suit as a class action that would include any U.S. resident who purchased Nestle products containing the labels since April 2015.
Walker alleges she purchased Nestle products based on labels that stated Nestle "supports farmers for better chocolate" and that the company was working to "help improve the lives of cocoa farmers."
"The plaintiff suffered injury in that she would not have bought the ... labeled products had she known that the products were not sourced from sustainable farming practices but rather off the backs of child and slave labor," the suit alleges.
The suit seeks restitution for class members, disgorgement for class members, an order prohibiting Nestle's "unlawful and deceptive acts and practices," statutory damages and punitive damages
Nestle issued the following statement: "We are aware of the lawsuit which appears to be another attempt by plaintiffs’ class action lawyers to attack a serious and complex problem like forced child labor through consumer class actions. Similar suits against Nestle USA and others have all previously been dismissed and we are confident this one will be too.
"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. Regrettably, in bringing such lawsuits, the plaintiffs’ class action lawyers are targeting the very organizations trying to fight forced child labor."