I have recently learned, sadly, that most of the cocoa exported for the manufacture of chocolate candy comes from farms in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, Africa, where child slavery is rampant. One estimate is that of the 200,000 children working on cocoa farms in sub-standard to brutal, horrific conditions, 12,000 of them are slaves. Adults are also subject to slavery and abhorrent conditions on cocoa farms.
All the major brands use this cocoa, and the U.S. is the largest importer. Until U.S. chocolate manufacturers use their power and influence to stop child slavery and improve working conditions for all workers in a meaningful way, I would suggest that you not buy name-brand chocolate, or candy made by name brand manufacturers like Nestle, Hershey’s and M&M Mars, and choose organic chocolate or fair trade chocolate instead.
It saddens me to write this because I have used these brands all my life. But this has been a long-standing problem and these corporations do have a choice. The problem was addressed by Congress with legislation and there is a World Cocoa Foundation that is attempting to remedy the problems associated with cocoa farming, but as of the last reports in 2008 and 2009, very little seems to have been accomplished to bring real relief to these young children.
Here are a few fair trade brands of chocolate you may want to try that are available at stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. I don’t eat chocolate, so I can’t vouch for their taste, but let me know if you have tried these:
- Trader Joe’s brand chocolate and cocoa
- Whole Foods brand chocolate
- Newman’s Own Organic chocolate chips
If you have insights to share on cocoa, chocolate, and what the industry refers to as “the worst forms of child labor,” please add them to the comments below.
- How to Not Support Child Slavery This Halloween (esquire.com)
- Child Labor-Free Cocoa ‘Almost Impossible,’ Nestlé Chairman Says (chocojavasocialjustice.wordpress.com)
- Cocoa Production: the Cost is too High and too Low (chocojavasocialjustice.wordpress.com)