I LOVE Chocolate! But There is a Dark Side!

I love dark chocolate, and it’s so good for you, as long as you’re eating 70% and higher!

But there is a secretive dark side to chocolate (no pun intended) and it’s hidden in the form of cheap, overly-available cocoa!

Cocoa products are in high demand, but the cocoa “market” demands low prices. To remain competitive and cut costs, many cocoa farmers force young children into slavery, pushing them to work endless hours on their farms, where they live in brutal conditions. They are exposed to toxic pesticides & fertilizers, dangerous tools like machetes, and countless beatings when they are too slow or try to escape.

This unspeakable abuse happens in Western Africa, where children from nearby countries are lured away from home with false promises and transported to farms in Côte d’Ivoire (also called the Ivory Coast) and Ghana. These two countries supply 75% of the world’s cocoa supply, selling to the main chocolate companies, Hershey, Nestle, Mars, and Kraft.

Luxurious Chocolate

Over the last few months, I’ve transitioned to purchasing local humanely-raised animal products. To balance the extra cost, I eat less of them.

How could I be so concerned about animal welfare, but turn a blind eye to humans being treated so poorly for a block of cheap chocolate?

In the same way, chocolate should be thought of as it was in the past, like a luxury; chocolate is not something to take for granted, something that we should have in small amounts for special occasions, savoring every bite.

So, I’m really going to make an effort to look for specific brands that are open and honest about the origin of their ingredients; this should ensure that the cocoa was farmed ethically with environmentally-friendly practices.

Yes, it will be more expensive, but just like I’m budgeting my food expenses, I’ll have to budget my chocolate intake.

This will cause me to appreciate chocolate a lot more, and really think about where it comes from. I am concerned about how my vegetables, fruit, meat and eggs are grown, so it should really apply to all foods I eat, chocolate included.

What’s On a Label?

So, how can we find “fair-trade” or slave-free cocoa products? Who can we trust?

Unfortunately, “fair trade” is a buzz-phrase we hear a lot when it comes to coffee and chocolate, as well as other products like bananas amp; sugar. But just as the labels “natural” and “free range” are abused in the meat industry, “fair trade” labels are also misunderstood and abused.

We cannot rely on the Fair Trade USA organization, as it’s recently been called out on their less than strict accreditation of requiring only 10% of fair-trade ingredients for a product to gain their label.

The Rainforest Alliance requires only 30% of ingredients be fair-trade and IMO Fair For Life requires 50% of ingredients be fair-trade.

That’s not good enough.

I found an unbiased list of recommended chocolate brands on FoodIsPower.org and I’ve saved it to my iPhone so I can refer to it when I’m shopping.

There are several online articles about the dark world of cocoa slavery, but their lists of recommended brands don’t always match the Food is Power list. That’s why I’d rather trust their list, as they don’t seem to be driven by labels and accreditation. They did their own research and came to their own conclusions.

Unfortunately, our regular brand Green & Black (owned by Kraft) is on their “not recommended” list, even though they have been recommended by other authors writing about “fair-trade” brands. I think I always knew in my heart, I wasn’t making the best choice, but Green & Black’s lower price was so tempting.

Changing the World – Vote With Our Forks

I can’t promise that every single thing I eat will be 100% ethical, but I’m willing to make a real effort for change.

We cannot rely on food companies and our governments to ensure that our food is produced safely and ethically. It’s up to each of us to “vote with our forks

If we consciously make a choice to purchase chocolate and chocolate brands using ingredients that are 100% free of abusive child labor, then perhaps Hershey, Nestle, Mars and Kraft will take these matters more seriously. Plus, we will be supporting smaller food companies, and that is always a good thing!

Online Resources:

http://smallbites.andybellatti.com/?p=8471 – this is the article that convinced me to look more closely into the matter of cocoa slavery.
FoodisPower.org – offers a list of recommended chocolate brands that are open about their ingredients, and the details behind the project.
http://www.johnrobbins.info/blog/is-there-slavery-in-your-chocolate/ – great article, except that their recommended brands don’t exactly jive with the list from FoodIsPower.org, which looks to be a more comprehensive list.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1497785/ – Details on child labor in Ghana
My blog post about dark chocolate and what the % mean.
http://www1.american.edu/ted/chocolate-slave.htm – child slavery in Cote d’Ivoire (the Ivory Coast.) Includes the story of Aly Diabate, a little boy who was released from a cocoa slave farm.

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