Chocolate companies under scrutiny for sourcing practicesThe Hershey Company has recently been targeted for its sourcing methods in a letter signed by a group of natural food retailers, consumer groups and human rights organizations.

The letter was sent after the Fair Labor Association reported that one of the world's largest chocolate-growing regions, the Ivory Coast, continues to use child labor. Thousands of child workers on these farms are slaves or victims of trafficking, according to the U.S. State Department.

Hershey has not ignored consumer concerns about product sustainability and ethical sourcing. The company had two of its chocolate lines, Scharffenberger and Dagoba, certified by Rainforest Alliance. They have also committed to spend $10 million investing in sustainable chocolate research in Western Africa by 2017.

Sustainability and ethical sourcing have long been concerns of consumers. Critics of Hershey cite other chocolate companies and their commitments to strategic sourcing practices. By 2020, Hershey competitors Mars and Ferraro plan to have 100 percent ethically sourced cocoa. Nestle is currently working with the Fair Labor Association to see if it can improve its cocoa procurement strategies in Africa.

The local grocers that signed the letter expressed dismay over the issue, and voiced concerns about continuing to carry any Hershey products until the chocolate company boosts its efforts to ensure fair trade standards are met.
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