Sorry to be so late in the game. You've probably already bought your Halloween candy. If not, or if you don't know about Hershey's dark side, please read.
The harsh facts: Thousands of children are kidnapped, trafficked, and sold to cocoa plantations every year. The average price per child: $1.20-1.90. 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 occur in West Africa’s Ivory Coast.
Despite high-powered opposition, Hershey's continues business with the Ivory Coast. Certainly the world’s largest chocolate corporation, boasting over $5 billion in revenue annually, can afford to take a stance.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 good alternatives. The most assuredly exploitation-free chocolate carries a Fair Trade Label. We pay more, 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 a candy's source, look at the back label.
Organic chocolate is another good option (e.g., Newman’s Organics).
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.
Good Chocolate: Cadbury Canada, Ben & Jerry's, Starbucks, 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 one fair trade chocolate bar), Sharffen Berger (also taken over by Hershey's).
Gary, worldly, handsome servant of Penny, modest internet superstar, provided this link. It's a great site through which to order fair trade chocolate.
Regarding Candy Corn: Brach's isn't fair trade, but it's not Hershey's! So if you haven't yet bought Halloween candy and you can't afford fair-trade goodies, buy candy corns or candy pumpkins (Brach's mellowcreme). At least you won't be supporting the world's biggest and most evil chocolate corporation. Thank you.
When in doubt, avoid Hershey’s and Mars, Sharffen Berger, Dagoba (and any company acquired by Hershey's).
Here are some folks fighting the good fight, and my sources of this information:
Fair Trade Labeling Organization
Fair Trade Candy Blog
International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements