From: Reuters
Published December 21, 2007 12:22 PM

Mars says will cooperate in U.S. chocolate probe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Mars Candy said it was cooperating with a Justice Department inquiry into possible chocolate price fixing but other candy companies said they had not been contacted about a federal probe.

"We have been contacted by the antitrust division of the United States Department of Justice regarding their inquiry concerning pricing practices in the U.S. chocolate confectionery industry," Mars spokeswoman Alice Nathanson told Reuters in an email. "We will cooperate with them if they initiate an investigation."

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined comment.

Last month, Canadian authorities launched a similar probe into price fixing at the Canadian units of major chocolate makers Mars Inc., Nestle SA <NESN.VX>, Cadbury Schweppes Plc <CBRY.L>, Hershey Co <HSY.N> and Mars Inc.

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"Hershey will cooperate fully with U.S. authorities should any investigation be initiated. However, we have not been asked for information related to this matter," said Hershey spokesman Kirk Saville.

Hershey manufactures Cadbury chocolate products sold in the U.S. and a spokeswoman for Cadbury in London declined comment.

"If there was any investigation we would cooperate but we haven't made any comments on that at all," said spokeswoman Katie Bolton, in a telephone interview from the company's London office.

Nestle said in a statement that it was "aware of a preliminary investigation into marketing practices in the U.S. chocolate industry. We have not received any document request but plan to cooperate fully with this investigation."

In Zurich, Nestle SA, Nestle USA's parent company, said it had not been contacted about a price-fixing probe.

"There are reports of an investigation that may be taking place in the United States but we have not been told about it," Nestle spokesman Francois-Xavier Perroud told Reuters on Friday.

Commenting on the Canadian probe, Perroud said: "We are cooperating with Canadian authorities as we always do."

(Reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington, Marcy Nicholson in New York and Pascal Schmuck in Zurich; Editing by Derek Caney)

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