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Consumer, Labor Rights Groups, Teamsters Tell Whole Foods: Don't Support Child Labor Chocolate Maker

Whole Foods Refuses to Hold Suppliers Accountable for Child Labor, Worker Rights Violations

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Advocates against the exploitation of children by chocolate makers initiated a campaign today calling on Whole Foods Market (NYSE: WFM) to hold The Hershey Company (NYSE: HSY) – the manufacturer of Dagoba and Scharffenberger Chocolates – accountable for exploiting children for profit. The Organic Consumers Association, the International Labor Rights Forum, Global Exchange and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters are demanding that Whole Foods join a growing coalition of grocery stores urging Hershey to fully commit to using only child labor free cocoa produced under fair-labor standards.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20100127/IBTLOGO )

In August, a coalition of forty-one independent natural food stores and co-ops called on the Hershey Company to meet the standard set by its competitors and fully commit to using ethically sourced cocoa. Unfortunately, Whole Foods and its supplier, United Natural Foods, Inc. (NASDAQ: UNFI), refused to sign the coalition's appeal.

About 35 percent of the world's chocolate is grown on small farms in the Ivory Coast. According to a U.S. Government-funded study, over 1.8 million children work in West Africa's cocoa industry. Many of these children are exposed to dangerous working conditions and some are even sold off to perform grueling labor on cocoa farms.

"We believe it's time for Whole Foods and UNFI to join other natural food stores in pointing out to Hershey that ethically sourcing a small amount of the company's overall chocolate, does not make up for continuing to be laggards among the large chocolate companies, nor does it erase the fact that most of Hershey's profits are earned at the expense of children," said Ryan Zinn, Campaign Director for the Organic Consumers Association.

Hershey's failure to commit to purchase significant portions of ethically-sourced cocoa contrasts with the proactive commitments demonstrated by its major competitors. Mars and Ferrero, for instance, have committed to ensure 100 percent of their cocoa supply is ethically sourced by 2020. Nestle is working with the Fair Labor Association to examine its supply chain for child labor. And Kraft/Cadbury also has taken steps to certify one-quarter of its Cadbury Dairy Milk bars sold globally as Fairtrade.

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