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  • Nestle has been using enslaved children to harvest cheap cocoa in Ivory Coast, Africa.

    Nestle has been using enslaved children to harvest cheap cocoa in Ivory Coast, Africa. | Photo: 10Campaign

Published 12 January 2016

Despite massive denunciations, child slavery increased by 51 percent to 1.4 million in 2014.

Nestle is once again in the spotlight as they are being sued for using children as slaves to harvest cocoa in the Ivory Coast, where they don't pay them and instead whip them if they do not perform their work satisfactorily. But this is not new, as the food giant was accused turning a blind eye to children being smuggled into the Ivory Coast from Mali since at least the beginning of this century, according to various NGOs.

In fact, a study carried out by the Payson Center for International Development of Tulane University in the U.S. found the number of children working in the cocoa industry in 2013-14 increased 51 percent to 1.4 million, compared to the last report in 2008-09.

This clearly reveals that far from taking steps to reduce child slavery, Nestle has aided the exploitation of boys and girls as young as six-years-old to obtain inexpensive cocoa from the Ivory Coast in return for higher profits, the Payson Center said.

“I have seen small children, six-years-old, being trafficked from Mali to Ivory Coast,” said renowned filmmaker Miki Mistrati, who released a movie on the subject in 2014, “Shady Chocolate,” which takes direct aim at the industry. “But the companies have not had the will to end it for many years. Only empty words and expensive advertising instead of using money to pay back to the children on the ground in West Africa.”

Reports have revealed that many of the children abducted in Mali are sold into slavery for less than US$30. Other children are tricked into thinking it is a legitimate job, only to be threatened, caged and beaten, The Free Thought Project recently denounced.

“These children are forced to work between 80-100 hours per week in grueling conditions with no pay. Often, the children are beaten or killed if they attempt to escape,” they added.

​For now, it’s good news that the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Nestle, one of the world's biggest food producers, and from Archer-Daniels-Midland and Cargill asking the court to throw out a lawsuit accusing them in a massive child slavery case.

RELATED: Brazil: Nestle Fined for Concealing Use of GMOs

​The three global food companies are accused of aiding and abetting gross human rights violations by buying cocoa from Ivory Coast in spite of being fully aware of the child slavery problem in the African nation.

In 2005, three people filed a class action, stating they were trafficked from Mali as children and forced to harvest cocoa beans as slaves without pay.

The three plaintiffs said they were forced to work up to 14 hours a day and that they were victims of physical abuse including whipping. If they attempted to escape, guards would slice open their feet as punishment.

RELATED: Nestle Sued for Using Fish from Slave, Child Labor in Cat Food

​They also said they were locked up in rooms when not working and that they were fed only scraps of food.

Nestle has long been criticized for their policies involving children, which goes back to the 1970s with reports such as “The Baby Killer” and “Nestle Kills Babies,” in which the food giant is accused of deliberately contributing to the malnutrition and deaths of infants by discouraging breastfeeding in the name of their brand of formula.

Nestle was also recently accused of unethically bottling California water during droughts, destroying rain forests and orangutans in pursuit of palm oil, and failing to keep lead out of noodles in India, RT said.

Cargill, which controls much of the global grain trade, has been accused of unethical palm oil extraction, while agribusiness giant ADM was caught breaking antitrust laws and price fixing in 1996 as well as causing air pollution in Iowa and wastewater discharge in Missouri.

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