Rainforest Alliance stamp does not indicate 'KitKats contain bugs'

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An image of a KitKat chocolate bar has been shared repeatedly in social media posts that falsely claim the seal on its wrapper from the Rainforest Alliance, an environmental NGO, indicates it contains "insects and worms". In fact, the seal certifies products that follow sustainable practices. A spokesperson for Nestle, KitKat's maker, told AFP no insects or worms are in the product, which it produces in line with global food safety regulations.

"KitKat bars containing ingredients like insects and worms. Why do people eat this when it is clearly labelled," reads the Korean-language claim shared here on Facebook on April 20, 2023.

The post includes three images of KitKats made by the confectioner Nestle, with the first image showing a seal that resembles a frog on the bar's wrapper, circled in blue.

Screenshot of the misleading claim shared on Facebook. Captured April 20, 2023.

Similar claims were shared on Facebook here and here, as well as here on Kakao Story, a South Korean forum.

But the claim is false.

Sustainable product

Through a keyword search on Google, AFP found the seal seen in the image shared alongside the misleading claim on Facebook matched the logo of the Rainforest Alliance, an international certification body for sustainably developed products (archived link).

According to the organisation's website, the seal means it has certified specific products as having been produced using sustainable methods, such as preserving forest ecology and advancing the human rights of rural workers (archived link).

KitKat is listed on the Rainforest Alliance's website as a product certified by the body, as the cocoa ingredient used to make the chocolate has been "harvested on farms and forests that follow sustainable practices" (archived link).

Screenshot of Kit Kat's certification page on the Rainforest Alliance website.

The ingredients of a KitKat -- which include chocolate, sugar, wheat flour, and cocoa butter -- have been published by the Hershey Company, Nestle Canada and KitKat Australia (archived links here, here and here).

A Nestle spokesperson told AFP the frog label seen on the KitKat packaging "refers to the certification by Rainforest Alliance" and that the chocolate bars "do not contain the animals (mentioned in the posts) as ingredients."

"The ingredients (in KitKat) are clearly marked on our packs as per regulations around the world," the spokesperson said on April 20.

AFP previously fact-checked false claims about the Rainforest Alliance's seal, including claims that the seal indicates a product contains a herbicide called atrazine or that the product has been genetically modified (archived link here).

Food regulations

While insect fragments are sometimes unintentionally found in processed foodstuffs, food regulators around the world have clear regulations about the levels of them that are deemed safe for public consumption (archived link).

The US Food and Drug Administration, for example, stipulates that fewer than four percent of cocoa beans by count can contain traces of insects in order to be deemed "not defective" (archived link).

South Korea's Ministry of Food and Drug Safety has banned the distribution of food with any insect parts and conducts safety inspections on a case-by-case basis (archived link).