The data to follow is based on my research in the fall of 2010. Hershey’s hasn’t budged since then, despite routine empty promises.
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. Yet they are forced to endure 12-18 hour workdays, handle machetes, climb high trees – while exposed to hazardous chemicals in a treacherous climate. Those who rebel or perform “poorly” are beaten. Those attempting to escape 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 chocolate companies assure exploitation-free products. Certainly the world’s largest chocolate corporation, boasting over $5 billion in revenue annually, can afford to take a stance.
Fortunately there are plenty of alternatives. The most safe option carries a Fair Trade Label. This guarantees a minimum price for farmers, prohibits abusive labor, and promotes environmental sustainability. We pay a bit more for fair trade chocolate, but dollars go directly to 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 a chocolate bar’s source, simply look at the back label.
A second option is organic chocolate (e.g., Newman’s Organics). Organic farms have their own systems of independent monitoring that checks labor practices.
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, 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, many are fighting the good fight, including my sources of this information:
Fair Trade Labeling Organization
Fair Trade Candy Blog
International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements
Thank you, and enjoy fair-trade chocolate this Halloween and always!