Day 1 – the revelation

I learned this afternoon that my favourite chocolate bars are possibly being made using ingredients produced using slave labour. I’m not talking in metaphores – I mean actual slave labour!

Here’s what happened…

Last week, I was talking with Dr. Rene Duignan, an economist and board member of the Ireland Japan Chamber of Commerce, and the subject of human trafficking came up. He recommended that I take a look at the Polaris Project as they’re active in Japan, so I went home and browsed through their website. It was rather interesting, so I checked it a couple of times during the week and it inspired me to do some further research.

Now, I’m often accused of spending too much time thinking about food, and I’m not sure how I managed to combine it with human trafficking on my Google search, but I came across a website called Stop The Traffik which has a campaign against human trafficking in the chocolate industry. For whatever reason, they singled out Nestlé.

Nestlé owns several of my favourite brands of chocolate bars. I buy myself an Aero at least twice a week and barely a day goes by where I don’t have a Kit-Kat (the chunky variery). According to Stop The Traffik, the four finger Kit-Kat is the only Nestlé chocolatey product in the UK & Ireland that is ‘traffik free’. In other words, all other Nestlé chocolate bars and other products containing chocolate are made using ingredients that were potentially produced using slaves.

I’ve read about various forms of modern slavery, but it was usually related to trafficked sex workers, mail order wives or children who are used as professional beggars. I was so shocked by what I’d read that I immediately phoned Nestlé’s Japan headquarters in Kobe and asked to talk to someone to see if the accusations are true. I was eventually put through to a gentleman named Ryo who sounded afraid, though that’s probably because I was describing something in English which he perhaps didn’t fully understand (I doubt the term ‘human traffik’ gets used much in Japanese FMCG). He asked if I could deliver my query by e-mail, so I took down his address and sent him a message detailing my concerns and mentioning the website I’d visited. That happened only a few hours ago, so I’ll let you know when I hear back from Nestlé.

I now face an entire weekend without a Kit-Kat, wondering if I’m going to have to campaign to have all my favourite confectionary removed from the shelves of stores in Japan.

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