Disclaimer: This material strays from my usual content and tone. It’s an issue too important to ignore, especially as Halloween approaches. For every article posted this week, knotmove.com is generously donating to Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation to join the fight against breast cancer. Thus, I’m addressing two important causes: breast cancer prevention and treatment, and child enslavement in the chocolate industry.
I simply hate this. Two of my great loves – kids and chocolate – have been at a morbid impasse for years or, perhaps, centuries. While I previously enjoyed a blissful dose of cheap (i.e., Hershey’s) chocolate, I was ignorant of the true cost of this pleasantry. Many are. Please be mindful of this information when purchasing your Halloween candy and/or when feeding a cocoa craving. The data to follow is based on my research in the fall of 2010. It appears Hershey’s hasn’t budged since then.
Every year thousands of children are kidnapped, trafficked, and sold to cocoa plantations. The average price per child: $1.20-1.90. The rate of pay: $.01 for chocolate that is sold for $1 in the United States. Sometimes these child slaves aren’t paid at all. Often, they have no concept of a chocolate bar. Rather, they are forced to endure 12-18 hour workdays, handle machetes without proper training, climb high trees – while exposed to hazardous chemicals in a treacherous climate. Should they rebel or perform “poorly,” they are beaten. Should they try to escape, they are killed. A vast majority of these known abuses –over 15,000 annually- occur in West Africa’s Ivory Coast.
While Hershey’s claims moral outrage, it continues business with the Ivory Coast. Meanwhile, other big chocolate companies and many smaller ones act to assure exploitation-free products. Certainly, the world’s largest chocolate corporation, boasting over $5 billion in revenue annually, can afford to take a stance.
Americans pay $15 billion for chocolate each year, with nearly 43% of this for Hershey’s candies. This monstrous entity acquired Sharffen-Berger in 2005 and Dagoba in 2006. It continues to produce many non-chocolate products, such as Twizzlers, along with countless non-food items.
Fortunately, fair trade chocolate offers a safe alternative. This international monitoring system guarantees a minimum price for farmers, prohibits forced and abusive labor, and promotes environmental sustainability. We pay more for this chocolate, but dollars go directly to the development of community resources such as schools and hospitals. Fair trade cocoa originates in Belize, Bolivia, Cameroon, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Ghana, Nicaragua, and Peru. To find out cocoa’s source, simply look at the back label.
A second option is organic chocolate (e.g., Newman’s Organics). Organic farms incorporate independent systems of monitoring. Plus, cocoa beans are not grown organically in the Ivory Coast.
There’s much guesstimating in this area. Here’s my best effort to delineate some of the “good” vs. the “bad.” The good side includes companies that have begun socially conscious efforts to guarantee exploitation-free chocolate.
Good Chocolate:Cadbury Canada,Ben & Jerry’s, Starbuck’s, Ah!laska, Endangered Species, Ithaca, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Newman’s Organics, Clif Bar, Guittard, Green and Black’s, Mayordomo/Mexican chocolate, European chocolate, Nirvana, Rapunzel, smaller mom & pop brands, and lots more.
Bad Chocolate: Hershey’s and any chocolate from West Africa’s Ivory Coast, Mars/M&M’s, Dove, Dagoba (taken over by Hershey’s, though they do have at least one fair trade chocolate bar), Scharffen Berger (also taken over by Hershey’s) and Nestle.
There’s plenty of slavery-free chocolate, too, that is neither Fair Trade Certified nor organic. When in doubt, avoid Hershey’s.
Finally, here are some entities fighting this worthy fight, along with my sources of this information:
Fair Trade Labeling Organization
Fair Trade Candy Blog
International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements