Confectionery giants Mars, Hershey, Nestlé and Cadbury Schweppes are at the centre of a competition probe in Canada.

just-food understands that the four companies are among a number of businesses implicated in an investigation into alleged anti-competitive practices in Canada's chocolate market.

Canada's Competition Bureau has served warrants on several major manufacturers of chocolate bars, requiring them to surrender information on their pricing policies, but declined to name the companies concerned.

When contacted by just-food, Competition Bureau communications advisor Marilyne Nahum said that at this stage in an investigation it was customary not to divulge the names of the companies being investigated.

She said the bureau was gathering evidence and that there was no conclusion of wrongdoing and no charges had been brought.

Nahum gave no details regarding the precise nature of the allegations but said that investigating cartels was one of the bureau's priority areas.

However, in a report in the Toronto newspaper, The Globe and Mail, some major producers themselves acknowledged that they had been contacted.

Catherine O'Brien, manager of corporate affairs for Nestlé Canada, confirmed that it had been contacted by the Competition Bureau and said it was "fully cooperating" with their requests for information.

Meanwhile, Hershey also confirmed that its Canadian operation had been contacted by the bureau. "We are co-operating fully with authorities. At this point we don't have any details and are unable to comment on this matter," said Hershey spokesman Kirk Saville told the newspaper.

"However, it is a strict policy of the Hershey Company to operate ethically and comply with all applicable laws wherever we do business."

Cadbury Adams Canada and Mars both told the newspaper that they would cooperate with the authorities.