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Leon Kaye headshot

Haribo Gummy Bears Accused of Cruelty to Humans and Animals

By Leon Kaye

Sure, many of us love the thought of driving a Beamer or Benz, but the most beloved products coming out of Germany are arguably those happy, jewel-colored Haribo gummy bears.

Unfortunately for the candy maker Haribo's reputation and public relations department, it turns out that the sourcing of ingredients for this almost 100-year-old treat is allegedly far from a happy experience for humans in Brazil and animals in Germany. Earlier this month, the German broadcaster ARD broadcast an investigative report that claimed two ingredients are tied to animal cruelty and gross violations of human rights.

The first ingredient in question, carnauba wax (also known as Brazil wax or palm wax), has been linked to plantations in Brazil where workers are reportedly paid as low as 40 Real ($12.50) day. ARD journalists said they witnessed workers on plantations forced to sleep outside after long days cutting removing leaves from palm trees by way of blades attached to long poles. The network also revealed that in additions to discovery of child labor, many workers often had no access to clean water and were denied the use of toilets.

Furthermore, in footage filmed closer to Haribo's headquarters in Bonn, ARD revealed pigs raised by one of the company's suppliers were repeatedly subjected to cruelty before they were eventually churned into another ingredient used in gummy bears and other Haribo candies. Scenes showed pigs in filthy conditions covered in their own excrement and lacking water; many had open sores, infected boils and appeared to be in terrible health. Others were shown stepping over dead animals. Some pigs were unable to open their eyes due to infections. For animal rights activists, the film is a grim reminder that skin and bones from pigs is made into gelatin, the ingredient that gives gummy bears their translucence and consistency.

Although Haribo to date has no public policy on how it manages animal welfare across its supply chain, various divisions of the company, such as one in the United Kingdom, claim that they strive to be compliant with local laws applying to human trafficking and slavery. To date, the company has only issued a vague statement on the approach it takes to sourcing various ingredients. That may soon, change, however, unless the company wishes to follow in the footsteps of companies such as Scharffen Berger, Hershey and Nestlé, all of which have confronted accusations of lax oversight of their supply chains.

A petition urging Haribo to improve its animal welfare standards and ensure human rights across its supply chain is close to reaching its goal of 50,000 signatures.

In a statement issued to several German media outlets including Deutsche Welle, the company claimed it was unaware of any violations of its supply chain guidelines, but that it would pursue the issue with its suppliers.

If ARD's allegations are indeed verified, it behooves Haribo to move quickly to fix these problems and eliminate cruelty to humans and animals within its supplier base. Otherwise, the company risks becoming known the confectionery making kids happy with animal-shaped candy - ironically, at the expense of humans and animals linked to the making of these products.

Image credit: Toms Baugis/Flickr




Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye