I love Halloween. Pumpkins everywhere, children parading in costumes, parties, yummy treats and lots of chocolate! My kids always return home with trick-or-treat bags sagging under the weight of chocolate bars, made by the manufacturers that have been around for so long. Chunks of sheer pleasure wrapped up in foil or paper. Harmless, short of the next visit to the dentist.
At least that’s what I thought until I recently viewed a documentary entitled The Dark Side of Chocolate by filmmaker U. Roberto Romano http://youtu.be/y882AajKo1s. I was stunned to realize that many chocolate companies knowingly support child trafficking and forced labor. African children are either abducted or taken from their families under false pretense. They are smuggled across borders, sold to cocoa suppliers and forced to work long grueling hours in cocoa fields under the worst of conditions. If they try to escape or not work, they are beaten. I try to imagine the lives of those children contrasted to my own children. It gives me pause on Halloween or, for that matter, Valentine’s Day or any other holiday that features chocolate. Human rights organizations have pressured the irresponsible chocolate manufacturers for over ten years to change their business practices. Some have taken positive steps toward putting an end to forced labor, but many still downplay the problem and fail to trace their supply chains. It brings a whole new meaning to the term “bittersweet”, doesn’t it?
So, like me, you probably are wondering how to buy responsibly. I suggest checking out how your favorite chocolate companies rate online. Boycott the poor-scoring companies and “buycott”, or support, the companies that are committed to fair trade practices. Fair trade is essentially a tool for reducing poverty in developing nations by building equitable partnerships between producers and consumers. Whole foods and PCC carry fair trade chocolate. Seattle’s own chocolate company, Theo’s, makes fair trade specialty chocolates and several companies offer a range of fair trade chocolates online.
I challenge all chocolate lovers to exercise their buying power for the better by being educated and conscientious consumers. If the grocery store you shop at doesn’t offer fair trade, ask them why. If your favorite chocolate brand doesn’t have a fair trade version, give their consumer division feedback. Fair trade items may cost a little more, but the quality is worth it and you will have the satisfaction of knowing you are taking a step in the right direction for human rights. Now that’s sweet!
View the chocolate company scores:
Get the chocolate story:
Learn about fair trade:
Watch the full length documentary of The Dark Side of Chocolate:
Purchase Fair trade chocolate online: