Haribo, purveyor of yummy gummy bears and other candies, has been accused by a German documentary of producing a product made from “slavery” and animal cruelty.
The documentary, “The Haribo Check” — produced by WDR, German public broadcasting — says that the candy company is perpetuating poor living conditions for both humans and animals by using suppliers who treat workers and pigs inhumanely.
Haribo said in several releases on its press site that it is investigating the claims to see if suppliers are treating animals and workers in the way depicted in the 44-minute documentary. The company wrote that it will act accordingly if the accusations turn out to be accurate, even if it means separating from those suppliers.
Haribo wrote on its UK site in June that it “recognizes that it has a responsibility to take a robust approach to slavery and human trafficking.” Haribo’s potential connections to slave labor goes back as far as World War II. A Time article in 2000 said Haribo was named in connection to concentration camp labor, but the company denies they were ever involved.
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“The Haribo Check” investigated the sources of the wax and gelatin that make up Haribo’s classic products, like their “Gold” gummy bears, cola candies and peach gummies.
Carnauba wax, which comes from carnauba palm trees in Brazil, is used on the gummy bears to keep them from sticking together and give them their shine. The film said the carnauba palms were sourced by local Brazilians who work in slave-like conditions in hot, unsafe and unsanitary environments.
According to the documentary, the workers live in rundown sleeping quarters (sometimes in trucks near the fields), drink water from the river and are made to stay for a month at a time before being allowed to go home. The employees work with long, heavy instruments to cut down barbed palms without protective gloves or clothing.
Sergio Carvalho from the Ministry of Labor in Brazil says in the video that the conditions can be called “slavery” based on Brazil’s labor codes.
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Gummy bears are also made with gelatin, which comes from pig rinds. The documentary shows the awful living conditions of the pig farms from where Haribo’s gelatin is sourced.
WDR spoke to animal rights groups, who snuck into the farms to record the conditions of the pigs, showing video of the pigs sitting in their own excrement, next to maggots and with no water. They had swollen eyes, scars and sores. When WDR asked pig farms and the gelatin factories about the conditions, they got canned responses back.
“How does Haribo ensure that wax from such farms does not enter their own supply chain?” the documentary asks.
Haribo, however, says WDR won’t tell them the names of the farms and plantations they visited to verify the claims.
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“We will also use this report, whether directly or indirectly, to question what we can do better,” Haribo said.
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