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Nestle promises strict action on Ivory Coast child-labor violations

Nestlé, the world’s largest food company, said it would do more to abolish child labor and other working violations in its West African nation, Ivory Coast. A study was carried out by the Fair Labor Association with Nestlé's support pointing out a range of problems.

In 2001, under pressure from the US congress, Nestlé and other major chocolate companies signed an agreement to end the problem, but little has been achieved so far.

FLA President Auret van Heerden, informed that, "Our investigation of Nestlé's cocoa supply chain represents the first time a multinational chocolate producer has allowed its procurement system to be completely traced and assessed. For too long child labor in cocoa production has been everybody's problem and therefore nobody's responsibility."

The FLA investigation found violations of Nestlé's own supplier code, including excessive hours and unpaid workers and also that the 72 percent of injuries were from workers using machetes.

"For too long child labor in cocoa production has been everybody's problem and therefore nobody's responsibility," Auret van Heerden said in a statement.
Maintaining the labor code in the Ivory Coast, which is still recovering from a divisive civil war and poverty, faces "systemic and cultural challenges," the group said.
Local laws governing workers rights are rare and "too few participants down the chain are aware of, or trained to apply" the code, it said.

Jose Lopez, Nestlé vice president of operations, told CNN; "There is no way, that long term, a company like ours can accept a situation like this. So it's a matter of how fast, how well, and how many people have to participate in getting these sorts of problems behind us.”

"We are determined to make real impact and hopefully also to be used as a lighthouse to show others that it's just a matter of getting started."

He further added; "My sense is that what we want to do here is to prove that it can happen. We will work with the World Cocoa Foundation and be in schools, we will work with International Cocoa Initiative and gather the cooperatives and put people there ... to give training on the farmers. We will work with the government on the action plan; we will work with the certifiers.”

Nestlé and the FLA say that if the problem is to be totally eradicated the role of government will be critical.