A CBS News investigation finds that candy company Mars, Inc. continues to use cocoa harvested by child laborers in Africa, and calls into question the company's stated commitment to keeping kids there in school. The media outlet found kids as young as five working at each of the cocoa farms it visited in Ghana (and saw one nearly hack off his fingers with a machete he was using to open cocoa pods) and talked to whistleblowers who said that cocoa field supervisors are under pressure to "cook" the lists of children who are supposedly in school, not on the fields, and that no one checks to make sure the lists are accurate.
CBS also found multiple examples of children whose names appear on those lists, but who were not in school and were still working in the fields, as well as some names of children who don't actually exist. And at one school, CBS found just a third of the 300 children registered there actually go to class, and those who do say they are still harvesting cocoa before or after class. Mars issued a lengthy statement in response to the report in which it stated multiple times that it condemns child labor, investigates any claims of misconduct, and has "a robust Protecting Children Action Plan in place that is backed by a significant financial investment." It also, however, acknowledged more still needs to be done. It has committed to having systems in place that are meant to eradicate child labor from its supply chain by 2025.
Meanwhile, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that a class-action lawsuit has been filed against Mars and fellow food giants Cargill and Mondelez alleging that the companies "have done little to address the ongoing and pervasive use of child workers performing the worst forms of child labor on their sourcing plantations." A similar lawsuit against Nestle and Cargill went through 16 years of litigation before the US Supreme Court dismissed it in 2021; that one has been refiled and is now pending, and this one relies on different laws. (More Mars stories.)