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Nestle to probe West African cocoa farms for suspected child labor

Fair Labor Association will investigate world’s largest food company’s supply chain

As the holidays approach, many of us find ourselves guiltily gorging on sweets. But that chocolate in the candy dish may take on an unexpectedly bitter taste with the revelation that more than 100,000 children are routinely forced to harvest cacao beans under abusive conditions in West Africa.

For the past decade, politicians and food company executives have worked to eradicate child labor in West Africa, which produces 75 percent of the world’s cocoa. But the U.S. Department of State estimated in 2009 that there are still more than 109,000 children working in the Ivory Coast’s cocoa industry, and about 10 percent of them are victims of human trafficking or enslavement.

Nestle, the world’s largest food company, has taken steps to tackle the problem. Beginning next year, Nestle is partnering with the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a non-profit organization committed to improving international working conditions, to investigate and document child labor on farms that supply the company with its cocoa.

Nestle is the first food company that the FLA will be scrutinizing. Read NPR for more information about the company’s child labor investigation.

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