Monday, October 24, 2011

Hershey's Dark Side: The Post I Hate to Post

Warning: The contents of this annual Halloween-time (re)post are disturbing. But the information is too important to ignore. Please be mindful of these facts 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. Hershey’s hasn’t budged since then.
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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.

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 they aren’t paid at all. Often, these child slaves have no concept of chocolate. 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 ensure 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 there are plenty of alternatives. The most assuredly exploitation-free chocolate carries a Fair Trade Label. 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 or 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). This is also a fairly safe choice, as organic farms have their own systems of independent monitoring that checks labor practices. 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.” On the good team, I included companies that have begun socially conscious efforts.

There’s plenty of slavery-free chocolate, too, that is neither Fair Trade Certified nor organic. When in doubt, avoid Hershey’s.
 
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).

Finally, here are some folks fighting the good fight, and my sources of this information:

http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/
Fair Trade Labeling Organization
Fair Trade Candy Blog
http://www.visionursd.edu/
http://www.saveafricachildren.com/
http://www.globalexchange.com/
http://www.change.org/
International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements

35 comments:

  1. And this is just speaking of Hershey's, there are so many more, guilty of similar things.

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  2. I had no idea! That really sucks. Does Hershey make Whoppers? I sure hope not... bastards!

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  3. I have Ghiradelli in my cupboard. I will have to check them. I had no idea about Hershey's. Our household is moving more toward organics and this is just one more good reason to do so.

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  4. Good for you, Robyn! I am very disappointed about Dagoba and Scharffenberger. But happy to learn that TJ is OK.

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  5. Thank you for the information. We have to be careful in our choices of chocolates from now on..

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  6. This is pretty bad to hear. Unfortunately all big companies are guilty of stuff like this so I'm probably not going to start boycotting anywhere as idiotic as that must make me sound. All of these guys are corrupt and money grabbing, it's pretty sad.

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  7. What about Thornton's? They pride themselves on being a premier brand.

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  8. good on you Robyn, it's not always easy to take a public stand and shed light on such cruelty. For so many of us it's "out of sight, out of mind" - after all these aren't our kids, and most big businesses do it so we conveniently turn a blind eye to the horror the children endure. (I'll stop now or I'll go on and include the cotton clothing industry in China - forgive my rage please) Sue

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  9. No more Twizzlers, no more Hershey’s Special Dark - and I printed the “Good” and “bad” list.
    (I hope someone from Hershey’s finds your blog post via Google – companies do this.)

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  10. Thanks so much, everyone. The more we spread the word snd boycott, the more likely Hershey's is to finally stop.

    GB, I haven't heard of that brand. I'm guessing it's fine.

    xoRobyn

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  11. AUGH! I read your post after my daughter and I just bought two huge bags of Halloween candy. I think I might have to puke up the Reece Cup I just ate. This is a great post and I had no idea, so thank you.

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  12. I had no idea. Horrifying. Thank you, thank you, Robyn, for this info. Avoiding Hershey's from here on out.

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  13. I would guess Hershey's will see this, and I'm glad you posted it.

    Disturbing stuff. I had no idea.

    "/

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  14. You've opened my eyes and temporarily closed my stomach to this chocolate issue. Is the Mars company equally bad?

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  15. I had no idea! This is so sad and should be on the news every night until herseys does something about it!
    Blessings, Joanne

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  16. I dislike Hershey chocolate. That said, I'm glad my Cadbury (Canada) is on the good list. They make AWESOME chocolate.

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  17. Stephen, Mars and Nestle are on the evil side. Sorry.

    Yeamie, I understand your point, though it seems to actually be the case that Hershey's is by far the most corrupt.

    MsA, sadly, that's very true. I didn't even touch on abuses in cotton plantations, clothing manufacturing, etc.

    I agree, Joanne. As long as this has been going on, I didn't even know about it until last year. Most informed, smart folks don't. It shows how money makes the rules.

    SacValGal, yes, THANK GOODNESS for TJs. They are good people!

    Ruth, sorry for the timing. It's never too late for enlightenment after enjoying the chocolate.

    Dear friends, Hershey's has received much bigger, louder statements than this post but still fails to budge. Feel free to repost this and/or join the fight at change.org. (I get periodic emails from them and sign petitions occasionally. It takes little time and no money to join the good team.) I appreciate your comments and will be tweeting and post this info elsewhere (e.g., on examiner.com).

    xoRobyn

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  18. Oh my God! I thought Hershey's made their chocolate two hours away from my house.
    No smart-aleck comments coming from me today. Thanks for this!

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  19. So sad. :( Stupid big, mean, jerks!!

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  20. When I was growing up, my parents took us on a trip to Hershey Pennsylvania. Who knows if these terrible things were even going on back then? Thanks for posting this Robyn!

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  21. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! That's so awful. Thanks for the information.

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  22. Sad but true like many other crops...good to know when I go to Belize next year I can eat their chocolate worry-free!

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  23. Thankfully, Cadbury's forms my main stay after that European chocaltes but I would avoid Hershey too as child labour is something we see back at home too.

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  24. Terrific post! I had no idea this was going on. No more Hershey's for me, what stomach-churning policy. Thank you so much for sharing this.

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  25. Another example of corporate greed trumps humanity. And they claim it's good for our economy while wrecking it. I'll remember Fair Trade and Newman's next time I buy chocolates.

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  26. Unfortunate and true. Glad you posted this. Fair trade chocolate all the way!

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  27. I'm surprised this is happening here in the states, I thought the FTC would monitor and ban any products that are a result of child labor. I come from Pakistan so I have grown up with a lot of child labor around me. It's a difficult subject - in developed countries such as the USA there is a proper system for child care/support, but in developing countries many children have to work or endure slavery to survive. However when their parents or some corporate organization forces or blackmails them to work, that is of course cruelly wrong. The biggest problem is that these children often do not accept the fact that they are being exploited, because to them survival comes first. Early in my career even I have worked at cheap labor costs when writing for American companies from Pakistan, not something I'm proud of but it was a desperate time for me. The scale of capitalism is just absurd.

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  28. Excellent post Robyn!
    I can't believe that shit. Well I can believe it, but its disgusting. half of what we own and buy comes from China where they employ child labour to make our cheap jeans etc.. (i'm talking Australia when i say We as for some reason, we pay a lot more for clothes than the US so go for the cheaper option which comes from China).

    Great to see you tackling something different...and serious.

    xo

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  29. Let's see if this comment goes through....

    Great post Robyn! This is really good to know. I'm going to be buying my halloween candy today. I will be making a more informed purchase. Thanks!!

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  30. Oh! I had no idea. And I just bought Hershey's, gosh darnit! But now I know better so I will do better. Thank you for sharing this.
    Traci

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  31. that really sucks!
    thanks for the info. i shall be sure to be careful next time i buy chocolate.

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