Let’s face it – practically everyone loves chocolate. And even though we want to eat healthy, local and homegrown, there are just not a lot of cocoa bean plants growing successfully in the United States. That means that when our sweet tooth is craving chocolate, we turn to decadent chocolate that started out being grown predominantly in South America and Africa. However, as concerned consumers, it makes sense to give some thought to how those cocoa beans are harvested and processed.
Your Chocolate Was Likely Harvested by Children
The Ivory Coast of Africa is the largest cocoa bean producing region in the world. However, it is also one of the biggest offenders when it comes to child labor. There are as many as 200,000 children working the cocoa bean fields in the area and a significant portion of them may even be human trafficking victims – forced slave labor. When we buy a chocolate bar without giving a thought to where it came from, who was involved in the harvest and production, and the working conditions those individuals have to endure, we are unwittingly enabling those who opt to use child labor.
While not all work done by children is considered child labor, when a child works in dangerous conditions it is most definitely child labor. Cocoa harvesting involves danger. Using a machete for harvesting is one of the tasks children do that is developmentally inappropriate for most of them. They also have to mix and apply chemical pesticides without proper protective
The Right Chocolate Protects Children
By choosing Fair Trade chocolate, you are opting to purchase chocolate that has not been harvested by children. Fair Trade farmers must meet exacting standards that include fair wages and safe working conditions. While chocolate that meets this standard is slightly more expensive than regular chocolate, it comes with the reassurance that you are supporting a grower that cares about children and doesn’t exploit them on his farm.
Learn More About Chocolate and Slave Labor
While this may be the first time you have heard about the slave labor aspect of chocolate, there is much information out there about it. A simple online search for phrases like “children in cocoa production” will give you a wide array of websites where you can find more detailed information. “The Dark Side of Chocolate”, a documentary about the subject that was made in 2010 can be watched online.
In your quest to be healthy, take a moment and think about how the things you choose impact the health and even safety of those involved in the production of such food. Whenever you can, choose Fair Trade chocolate for a treat you know is ethically sound. Even if your local stores don’t carry such choices, there are many online retailers that can feed your socially responsible chocolate needs for Valentine’s Day, Easter and every other occasion all year long.