chocolate bar

Chocolate: the industry’s hidden truth (and the easy stuff we can do to still enjoy it)

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by Tsh

Tsh is the founder of this blog and is currently traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

If you spend four minutes with my children, you will know that Halloween is around the corner. This is because they are children, and who wouldn’t love a holiday that involves dressing up like beloved characters, animals, or icons and collecting candy in a bag? Dress up plus sweets? Sign me up, they say.

Well, despite how I feel about the holiday (ahem—keeping a jar of candy each per kid; giving the rest away while we recover for the next three days), it’s a fun way to get out in the community, enjoy the fall, and create family memories. I just go with it.

But I’m gonna pull back the curtain behind the wizard here, and it’s one of those inconvenient truths that I wish we could ignore. But we can’t. Because friends, it’s real, it’s rampant, and not enough well-meaning families know about the reality behind their shiny-foiled wrappers.

The far majority of chocolate is in our stores because of forced child labor. And unless we tell the guilty companies that this isn’t okay, this will keep happening.

So this means that the majority of the chocolate candy in your kids’ Halloween bag will be because of child labor, and often child slavery. But this also means there’s a simple but powerful thing you can do as a family to not contribute to the epidemic issue. More on that at the end.

chocolate_slavery
Photo from Food Empowerment Project

In 2001, various news sources revealed that children were being used as slaves or cheap labor in West African cocoa farms, where the majority of the world’s cocoa is birthed. Lawmakers in the U.S. tried to enact laws to require change, but the farthest they got was a voluntary protocol (the Harken-Engel Protocol, to be exact), signed by heads of major chocolate companies, to ask for the stop of child labor “as a matter of urgency.”

Well, this pretty-please request was more or less ignored, and more than ten years later, there are still over a million children working on cocoa farms with little more than the torn clothes on their backs. Their hands and faces are often sliced with machete scars, evidence of the main tool they use to cut down the cocoa from trees after shimmying up the trunk (and also used to split open the cocoa pod).

Child slavery is used in the chocolate industry. Don't turn a blind eye.
Photo from Mind This

Most of the children are also required to spray hazardous chemicals on the crops, where they ingest it into their lungs, and they are unable to attend school while they work, which is in violation of the International Labor Organization (ILO). Most of these children can’t read or write, they subsist on corn paste and bananas, and needless to say, they have never tasted the chocolate they help produce for our own families.

According to the website Grist, a 2011 Tulane University study found a “projected total of 819,921 children in Ivory Coast and 997,357 children in Ghana worked on cocoa-related activities” in 2007-2008.

The ILO calls the cocoa industry the worst form of child labor today. And these farms, mostly in Ghana and Ivory Coast, exist because of brands like Hershey, Nestle, Mars, and Cadbury—they all purchase cocoa from these farms, are all aware of their practices, and as of today, have chosen to do little about it.

What can we do?

Here’s the deal—as well-intentioned families who hold the majority of the world’s money (and if you can read English and are reading this blog, you’re probably in this demographic), we hold an incredible amount of power in our wallets. We simply need to put our dollars where our hearts beat and NOT BUY THIS CHOCOLATE.

I don’t use all-caps often. But I am here, because you guys, it doesn’t take much for us to make a massive dent in this worldwide catastrophe.

Chocolate is not an essential commodity for survival, so we can each absolutely afford brands that practice ethical standards from the crop to the store. It’s just a matter of knowing what those are.

What’s up with the Fair Trade label?

fair trade logos

I wrote about this already in my post about the coffee industry, and the same thing applies to chocolate. The main thing to know is that the “Fair Trade” label means the farmer was paid a fair price for his or her product, and in buying this chocolate, you as a consumer aren’t willingly participating in exploitation. But unfortunately, a farmer has to pay for this certification, and at thousands of dollars, many can’t afford this.

Look for a short supply chain

The best option is to look for the shortest supply chain possible, which means there are few steps between the farmer and the grocery aisle. Look for verbiage like “Direct Trade” and “Bean to Bar.” These chocolatiers often travel directly to the farms, develop a relationship with the farmers, and therefore both get the top-tiered choice in beans and are given a reasonable price—which directly goes to farm operations.

So, is that it?

Not quite. Also keep in mind that those major chocolate brands also pump their candies full of GMOs, fake emulsifiers, artificial sweeteners, and other chemicals—at least in the U.S. I can’t speak for every country, of course, but in my travels, I can attest that chocolate tastes better outside of America. In fact, certain well-known chocolates in the U.S. must be labeled “chocolate candy” in other countries, because well, it’s not considered real chocolate elsewhere.

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Look for the Non-GMO Project Verified label to better ensure your chocolate isn’t icky. (Also, organic chocolate is almost exclusively grown in Central and South America, where slavery isn’t an issue.)

The broken chocolate industry, and how we can still enjoy it. So important right before the major holidays.

I guess this means we should cancel trick-or-treating and eat organic apples while watching depressing documentaries, eh?

I’m a realist, and I get that many of you still want to take your kids trick-or-treating (or rather, your kids would be heartbroken to ban the holiday). Here’s what we can do.

1. Tell your kids the truth.

You don’t need to go into graphic detail, but I think it’s perfectly legit to tell your kids that as a family, you can’t, in good conscience, buy mainstream chocolate because those companies use kids just like them to work really hard for almost no money, that they often get hurt, and that they can’t go to school because of chocolate.

Let’s change the status quo by impassioning their generation to practice ethical buying now.

2. Don’t buy chocolate from mainstream brands.

Choose to no longer buy chocolate from companies like Nestle, Hershey, Mars, and Cadbury, so that they get the message that we are NOT okay with forced child labor.

3. Buy from awesome companies.

There are more and more chocolatiers that are selling ethically-made chocolate—let’s support them. Yes, it costs more. So we buy less. It’s a small price to pay for doing right.

Good Halloween treats

equal exchange
Chocolate minis from Equal Exchange (I especially LOVE their Halloween Kit!)

divine chocolate
Divine milk chocolate and dark chocolate mini pieces (they’re the first farmer-owned chocolate company in the world!)

trick or treat chocolate
Trick or Treat chocolates by Sweet Earth

endangered species halloween chocolate
Halloween treats from Endangered Species Chocolate

chocolate square
SweetRiot’s chocolate squares

Halloween Orange Bites
Sjaak’s chocolate & peanut butter bites

YumEarth Organic Lollipops
YummyEarth Organic Lollipops (not chocolate)  | on Amazon

Chocolate doesn’t end on Halloween, of course—here’s a list of reputable chocolatiers for all your chocolate snacking, drinking, and baking needs.

Great chocolate companies

You may not feel rich, but compared to the rest of the world, you probably are. Really really. And you can make a major difference in the world simply by directing your money to the right sources. We’re at the beginning of the chocolate-heavy holiday season… we have plenty of time to purchase well. Please join my family.

For further reading, my friend Kristen Howerton has done a fabulous job going in to more detail of the chocolate slavery issue.

The documentary The Dark Side of Chocolate is currently available on YouTube for free, and while it’s not graphic, it might be emotionally disturbing for kids. Watch first before showing your children, but make a point to watch it yourself—it’s haunting.

Alright, it’s your turn to add to this post—what are your favorite ethical chocolate companies? Please share in the comments below. Also share your ideas on how to make Halloween a more ethical holiday for our kids.

This post first appeared on October 2, 20113.

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Comments

  1. I have been thinking about this on and off for the past 6 months or so. I think I knew about it in the back of my mind before that, but was given a lot of information recently that has convinced me. I *know* I need to do this, I just need to start the discipline. So I have a few questions for you or others who already do this:

    We don’t buy a lot of chocolate bars, and when we do we buy German (Ritter Sport) or Swiss (Lindt) chocolate and also the bars from Trader Joe’s. I know my step is to do my research and perhaps swap for bars, but what about chocolate chips? That is where the bulk of our chocolate comes from and it’s for baking…do you just order these things in bulk online somewhere? Like Amazon? Is there a local chain that you can buy most of these brands at? I’ve never seen any of them except Divine. Can we just assume TJ’s is slave free, since that store is known for organic/fair trade?
    Sarah M

    • We buy Enjoy Life chocolate chips from Whole Foods, which aren’t officially Fair Trade but have said on the record they’re doing what they can to ethically source their beans. SunSpire makes ethical chocolate chips as well—looks like they have a store locator on their website. :)

      Ritter Sport is a good choice—they get most of their cocoa beans from Nicaragua, which doesn’t have a child labor issue. While Lindt isn’t officially Fair Trade, they say they make a point to know from which farms in Ghana they source their beans. See more here.

      And honestly, I’m not sure about TJ’s line of chocolate, but I can look into it. If anyone else knows, please chime in!

      • Word on the street is that Trader Joe’s *does* have some Fair Trade chocolate (like the bars here: http://www.traderjoes.com/fearless-flyer/article.asp?article_id=428), but that you have to look for it on the label. No idea about the provenance of the unlabeled ones, but there are at least some legit options there.

        Also, Trader Joe’s managers are INCREDIBLY receptive to feedback, so if you have a second, ask them about the slave labor question, and encourage them to only sell Fair Trade bars.

      • That’s really good to hear about Enjoy Life! We buy many of their products because of our daughter’s food allergies. Reading this, I kept thinking about how much research I was going to need to do to make this transition in our family, but I feel much better knowing that it will be a lityle less. (We too use chocolate mostly in the form of baking chips.) Unfortunately we’ve already purchased our Halloween candy this year, but I will be making sure we work on this moving forward. I honestly wasn’t aware of the extent of the child labor issue with chocolate.

      • There is one thing which causes confusion even more: Is it Fairtrade, Fair Trade, or fair trade?

        Fairtrade is the organization that was referred too. Fair Trade is incorrect and a violation of the trademark.

        “fairtrade” is also incorrect.

        “fair trade” is incorrect if referring to Fairtrade.
        If it’s simply fairly traded, but not Fairtrade Certified, saying “fairly traded chocolate” is the best option; even “fair trade chocolate” will make people thing it’s Fairtrade Certified chocolate.

        Source: I wrote a book, The Chocolate Slavery Booklet (www.chocolateslavery.tk), for which I had to contact Fairtrade to get permission to use the Faairtrade Mark. So they gave me all the rules for the trademark, Fairtrade.

        :-)

      • avatar
        Norabella says:

        Not to be nit-picky, but if they aren’t actually Fairtrade, then they obviously are not “doing what they can” to source ethically grown beans. If the certification didn’t exist, that would be an acceptable statement, but since there does exist a pathway for getting fairtrade cocoa, the only alternative answer I think is actually legitimate is a source that buys directly from the farmer, and you trust their ability to assess the conditions on the farm accurately.

        Doing what we can could easily mean, “well, we’re considering the financial implications of Fairtrade for our business and while we would ideally like to be fair trade we’ve decided we can’t afford to source ethical beans right now. But, we’re still looking for a cheaper ethical source, and wanting that certification, so we’ll tell the few consumers who ask that we’re “doing what we can,” and most of them will accept that as salve for their conscious.

    • Sarah I buy Fairtrade chocolate blocks and just chop them to make chocolate chips. Works for the recipes I have :)

    • If you have a Costco membership their chocolate chips are responsibly sourced (and a great price).

    • I’ve just recently started buying fair trade chocolate, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to afford to buy much chocolate anymore. I buy a fair amount of chocolate chips because I make my own granola bars for snacks. I was thrilled to discover that Whole Foods has chocolate chips in their store brand (365), and they are fair trade certified, and a very reasonable price, $2.19 a bag – just a bit more than I was paying before!

    • Why not just use the fair trade chocolate bars (I use Trader Joes) and chop them up for you chips?

    • Kirkland brand chocolate chips at Costco state they use responsibly sourced cocoa. Their responsibly sourced chocolate chips are even cheaper than mainstream store brands! The chocolate chips are even on Amazon if you’re not a Costco shopper, although they are slightly cheaper at Costco. (http://www.amazon.com/Kirkland-Signature-Chocolate-Chips-3-5lb/dp/B009V3O3AA)

      Ben & Jerry’s is making the move to all fair trade certified ingredients and they make sure to use ethically sourced cocoa. (http://www.benjerry.com/activism/inside-the-pint/fairtrade)

      I’m completely O.K. with not purchasing Hershey/Nestle/etc., as Tsh said, it’s not a necessity. My question is to what extent are any of you on an all out chocolate ban?

      I know the things I’m about to list aren’t exactly nutritional.. Albeit, the Holidays are around the corner and so is baking season. Yes, ethical cocoa and chocolate chips are easy to find and honestly affordable. What about the growing cake pop trend..? Do you swear off products like melting chocolate or almond bark? Do you make everything from scratch that uses chocolate?

      Do you get chocolate flavors if you take the kids out for ice cream? What about the occasional donut, slice of pie, or foodie dessert, no chocolate?

      I know, I know, it’s neither healthy nor necessary. Nonetheless, they’re options we’re faced with. I’m just curious as to other perspective, approaches, and insights.

    • Equal Exchange has chocolate chips as well. They just started selling them at my Whole Foods, so you may be able to buy them locally. It tastes great and is free of all major allergens (specifically–no soy lecithin)

    • Lindt chocolates are some of the worst offenders! We hand out organic fruit gummies when we have lots of kids coming by. Last year we moved to a rural area so we only get a few trick – or -treaters. I bought Green and Blacks full size bars on sale and gave them out to the 5 kids that came by. It felt wonderful and they sure loved getting a whole bar!

  2. We’re kind of chocolate snobs around here. We don’t drink, so we’ve become chocolate connoisseurs. I can’t stand Hersheys and the like. My current favorite is the Taza stone-ground chocolate (you can get it on Amazon if you can’t buy locally).

    For Halloween I tend to buy Pixie Stix. The older kids love it, and the younger kids get an introduction to a classic. Plus the wrapper is paper (less plastic waste) and it avoids the whole slave labor issue. It certainly isn’t healthy and has a bunch of food dyes, but nothing is perfect.

    • Pixy Stix is owned by Nestle now, so if you are boycotting Nestle in general, you’ll have to find a substitute for Pixy Stix.

  3. I appreciate you putting this into succinct words Tsh. I have gone back and forth with my chocolate purchases. For a while, I would buy fair trade chocolate for baking and simply limit the amount of baking I did, which involved chocolate.

    I am going to begin the conversation with my girls as a result of your post. thanks!

  4. avatar
    Gillian Stickings says:

    Thank you for this post – it is very well done, succinct yet vivid. As someone who was born and grew up in Ghana, to missionary parents, and someone to whom chocolate is very important, this sort of thing tends to get my energy up. I can’t remember the last time I bought non-Fair Trade chocolate. Although I have to put my hand up to the whole sourcing-and-affording such chocolate being easier in the UK, partly because it’s so much smaller. (Halloween is also still not a big thing here, though it’s growing).

    However I do find it in me to wish that you had explicitly commented in your post, rather than relying on people following the links, that Divine is a Ghanaian cooperative – to provide balance to all the negative statistics. After all, ceasing to buy or avoiding buying Ghanaian-sourced cocoa products will not improve the situation, it will only make families more desperate and require more children to try to produce more cocoa. Just make sure you follow the excellent advice in the post and buy ghanaian Fair Trade, and clearly sourced, gourmet chocolate. It’ll be MORE than worth your trouble! =)

    • Thanks for sharing this. It makes it a bit easier to accept the price knowing that.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Gillian! I appreciate them so much.

      And the reason I linked to things instead of explaining them in the post itself is simply because of brevity. The post was already getting long and I want to keep it reader-friendly. :)

  5. Well done, Tsh! This a very informative post. I was actually discussing with my husband on the weekend about only buying fairly traded chocolate and this is the confirmation and push to do so. I’m a fan of Divine chocolate, we actually used the mini ones as favors at our wedding!

  6. In total agreement, thanks to you Tsh using this forum to hopefully bring this important issue to more people. You are right, the Dark Side of Chocolate IS haunting and should be watched – ideally both parent and child at the same time. At my daughter’s school (in Germany), this was part of the English lesson syllabus (the children were aged 11-12). My youngest is now 10 and this is a timely reminder that I need to sit down with her and watch and explain this important documentary. Thank you.

    • That’s cool! I think it depends on each kid, particularly considering their age. My 8-year-old isn’t easily scared by fantasy/imaginary stuff, but the sort of reality in the movie might bother her too much. I might let her watch bits and pieces.

  7. It might just be in Canada, but Cadbury has moved to using Fair Trade chocolate in at least some of their bars. This might be an accessible, responsible option for Halloween giving.

    • Thanks, Robin! Regarding bigger chocolate companies, I explain my family’s rationale a bit more in the comment here. Just FYI.

      • I’m also from Canada. Up here, Cadburys Dairy Milk, Buttons and Bubbly are Fair trade. In a way, this is simply pandering to a certain consumer group (trying to recapture the ethical consumer) and seems like a relatively small step. But, it is a step in the right direction. One we’re asking them to take. If the heavy hitters in this industry get the message that fair trade is profitable and well received here in the smaller test markets, they are more likely to move in this direction. It’s not enough, but it’s a start.

        We also like Divine white milk chocolate and strawberries. Yum!

        • I’m also in Canada and I find I’ve had to cut out Cadbury completely. My family has a nut allergy so the brands that I can buy is already limited. I’d like to be an ethical consumer but am worried that I’d never taste chocolate again! I have to confiscate a majority of the chocolate on Halloween (all Hershey, Cadbury, etc). The only brand I can rely on is Nestle. This will make Halloween that much more difficult

  8. After leading a unit (in our middle school Sunday School class) on fair trade goods, I decided to try my best to buy our family’s chocolate, bananas, and coffee fair trade. I’m not always perfect but I do try! I’ve been confused about the label for a long time now and am so grateful to you for pointing out that some farmers cannot afford to be certified.

    Thanks to your powerful reminder our family is going to go totally “fair” for Halloween!

  9. FYI in Australia, Cadbury does produce a Fairtrade bar and produce a brand called ‘Green & Blacks’ that is Fairtrade and Organic. So they can do it and I will support that so that hopefully they increase their Fairtrade range.

    • Thanks Kristy. I was wondering which brands to choose in Australia.

    • Green & Black’s is listed above as a good chocolate choice, but I didn’t know they were owned by Cadbury. Good to know!

      • Green & Black is Fairtrade, but it’s not deep fair trade. I believe they don’t source exclusively from small farmers, but do allow plantations. Much more ethical than standard chocolate, but not nearly as good as Equal Exchange, Divine, Theo, or Alter Eco. I looked into this because I source Faritrade Chocolate for our church cafe. I’ve talked to representatives from Equal Exchange.

  10. Thanks for posting this, Tsh. You inspired me to take a stand and challenge my church to do an ethical Trunk-r-Treat (our Halloween party for the neighborhood) this year.

  11. Thank you so much for bringing attention to this. As a chocolate lover, it’s something I think about a lot. It’s also a topic I’ve started to discuss with my oldest two children to create awareness.

    For the past several years, we have primarily bought Theo or Trader Joes fair trade organic dark chocolate. Theo has so many wonderful flavors, I encourage everyone to check out this great company.

    I was just about to publish a post mentioning fair trade chocolate and a delicious caramel dip I’ve been dipping it in, so I will be sure to link to this.

  12. Hi Tch,

    Thanks for the wonderful post. I love learning in this way – easy to digest in the mornings.

    There’s something that confuses me a bit. I know that child labor is bad (especially horrendous conditions), but in some countries / families, isn’t that the only way they survive? Of course we would love for all kids to have a safe, worry and work-free childhood, but I wonder if that’s a sustainable solution at this point. Sending their kids to work may be the only way these families are surviving at the moment. This issue applies to a lot of things (toy manufacturing, coffee, chocolate, etc.). I was wondering if you or anyone who reads this wonderful blog had thoughts about this :).

    Wonderful post as always!

    • I have the same conundrum. I don’t know if it’s right or fair to compare the lives of third world children to our own ideals. For some of these kids, their labor may prevent starvation of themselves and their families. Buying different chocolate isn’t going to solve this problem, however well-meaning the advice.

      • avatar
        hawkfeather says:

        Carrie- on the Ivory Coast the children are often stolen form their homes without permission from their families and are paid NO wages what so ever.
        It is not a matter of pay supporting their families or themselves- they are slaves

        • Thank you — I had been wondering the same thing. Obviously, stolen and enslaved children are not able to help their families in any way. This helped me decide to boycott Hershey’s etc. and find a source for Divine or one of the other ethical chocolate brands.

    • I was wondering the same thing after I read Gillian’s post-now more after reading subsequent posts. In the end, will those families/children suffer more by our good intentions? Seems as though the issues go much deeper. On the other hand, you have to start somewher to make a change. I’m just wondering if this is the right “somewhere”. Very eye opening and thought-provoking, Tsh. I’m interested in finding out more. Thank you!

      • avatar
        Gillian Stickings says:

        Oh, believe me, being careful to look for Fair Trade – or any of the other things to look for that Tsh says – are a very good ‘somewhere’ to start. Cadburys now uses Fair Trade chocolate (as someone else has commented) in most of its products *because* of the UK Fair Trade Movement which started small – tiny even – in the 70s and achieved the amazing feat of making a chocolate manufacturing giant switch its practice to more accountable fair trade cocoa just this past couple years.

        But just as Allie and Carrie et al are saying, this is a HUGELY complicated issue, even if it IS also a vitally important one. The extremely involved situation of third world families, labour and survival in a global, rich-favouring capitalist economy has to be approached with great care, sensitivity and intention to try to learn as much as possible and be as careful as possible in one’s own resulting actions and choices. It is heartrending to try to decide whether to continue action will enable so many to survive, *now*, or to make a consumer choice which hopefully will change huge systems for the better, but not overnight.

        However I *do* think that the enormous consumer festival of North American Halloween, if a large enough number of thoughtful participants started ‘suddenly’ buying the ethical-option confectionery, is something where an effect would probably be seen with remarkable swiftness, simply because of the scale involved. So all my ‘yes but’ comments are in NO sense aimed at undermining this post, and hopefully the movement this post is a part of; I think it could literally be world-changing!

    • I know. This is a huge, massive topic. For us to superimpose our first-world sensibilities over a large majority of the world’s realities is pure ethnocentrism, and I have no desire to go there. And you’re right, many families need their children to work, and do so to survive.

      I don’t have lots of time right now, but for me, the short answer is this—if an industry uses flat-out slavery much of the time, I don’t think I can trust them to ethically use child labor either. It’s a farm-by-farm case, of course, just as clothing is a factory-by-factory case as well. So hard to document and track. So until I can know the children were treated fairly to create my chocolate, I’d rather veer on the safe side.

      • Thanks for your thoughts, Tch and others. I’ll definitely do my own research and make a decision. It is a hard place to be , but at least we’re all thinking about it! Happy Thursday everyone.

      • In the video at the end of your blog, it stated that some of the children aren’t paid at all. That is not helping their family or themselves, only serving the needs of greedy farmers. This effort to buy only from those companies who do not use this practice seems very wise to me! Why else would they change if money is their main focus. “Kicking them where it counts” would seem the only way to bring about a change.
        Thank you for sharing this article!

    • For me, it’s more about the child SLAVERY used in the chocolate industry. That’s just too high a price to pay for cheap chocolate.

    • avatar
      Elizabeth says:

      I’m a college student currently taking an economic development class, where we discuss child labor often. According to the textbook and the professor, if a few children lose their jobs due to decreased demand, this hurts the family, but if a large number of children leave the workforce this instead will change the equilibrium. The equilibrium will shift because the labor supply has shrunk, which will force companies to pay more to workers and raise the price of the good. For most industries that use child labor, economists predict that the increase in wages for adults when children leave the workforce makes up for not having an extra worker in the household (families in developing countries tend to all work for the same employer). Also, it is important to note that children are much more likely to go to school if they are not working, which is a huge benefit to them, their families. and society in the long-term.

  13. Looks like Hershey may be getting the message and beginning to move in the right direction. I was glad to see this, because we were planning a stop there to see Christmas lights on our family vacation later this year.
    http://www.globalexchange.org/blogs/fairtrade/2013/03/22/victory-hersheys-choose-fair-trade/

  14. Also, on an unrelated note, I just read your Agra post on your personal blog.

    I’m an Indian-American, and I’ve been to the Taj Mahal a couple of times. It’s wonderful, but here’s a tip: wear old / gross socks. When you go in the Taj Mahal, you are required to take off your shoes. The floors aren’t constantly cleaned, and really, you don’t want to be bare foot. I’d suggest bringing extra old socks for your whole family. Our socks were pretty disgusting after walking around for an hour (it had rained the day before and it was super muddy). We just threw ours out when we got back to my aunt’s house, but you can keep them in a bag and wash them at a later point. Just a tip :)

  15. Here in Canada I’ve discovered Giddy Yo Yo. Their chocolate is “beyond fair trade”, free from all major allergens, and AMAZING!

    Since I learned how mainstream chocolate is produced almost a year ago, I haven’t been able to buy it. I just can’t do it. I would rather go without than think a child suffered to produce my treat.

    • Oooh! I’m going to have to look this up! I wonder if I can have it shipped to the US, since my daughter is peanut allergic. The chocolate topic in our house can be a hefty discussion. I would love to switch and will be doing the research to figure out how, but my daughter’s life certainly takes precedence in our home. We use Enjoy Life chips, but it’s hard to get anything other than plain Hershey bars and kisses in the local stores that are reliably safe.

  16. Thank you for posting this, Tsh! The Dark Side of Chocolate (and coffee and bananas and…) is chilling…and easy to overlook in our land of relative comfort. I truly appreciated not only your research but also the shared links. I did follow through and make a small order for some of these socially-conscious chocolates, but the price tag is staggering. Purchasing ethical chocolate on a large scale (like for Halloween) isn’t particularly realistic for most families, so I loved how Lindsey (one of the commenters above) pointed out that Pixie Stix doesn’t have ethical issues. There are so many candy options for Halloween, so the big price choice doesn’t have to be for chocolate. For small personal treats, though, ethical chocolate is the way to go…and tastes amazing too! Thanks again!

    • avatar
      Norabella says:

      Sugar has its own issues, often child/slave labor in the case of cane sugar, or GMO if sourced from sugar beets.

      Also, while I understand that it is easy to say “purchasing ethical chocolate on a large scale” isn’t realistic, I would maintain that it is a matter of choices and priorities, like everything else. Perhaps Halloween becomes the only time a year that a family purchases chocolate in order to support only fairtrade chocolate, perhaps a family thrifts or otherwise creates cheap costumes (double bonus of avoiding mass-produced costumes made from petroleum-based fabric and sewn by mistreated workers), perhaps a family has a garage-sale, etc. The options for how to make room in a budget for ethical Halloween treats are as varied as family circumstances, and limited only by imagination and our willingness to prioritize the life and physical safety of other children over the endless wants of our own.

  17. Here’s a topic that’s even darker than the hideous costumes and decorations in the stores. Thank you for a thorough description of the truth and what we can do about it. Love your website! xoxo

  18. I tend to only buy organic dark chocolate just because I prefer the flavor, but every now and again I’ll buy a Twix or something. Guess that won’t be happening in the future, whew!

    I mostly buy Trader Joe’s or Sprouts brand organic chocolates; I don’t have a big allegiance to one particular brand.

  19. Does anybody know anything about those brands that feel slightly fancier than Hershey or Nestle but are still available at regular grocery stores? Like Ghirardelli and Dove and Lindt, etc. Are they owned by other companies, and are they likely to use child labor too?

    • I mentioned Lindt here, but I haven’t had a chance to look into those other chocolates yet. They’re often owned by the big names (I’m almost positive Dove is)… I can research later, but if anyone knows now, please chime in!

      • I think Dove is a Mars brand (which is probably owned by someone else)

      • Having just started my own pre-Halloween, slave-free chocolate project a few weeks ago, I’m so glad you’re doing this. We definitely need to get the word out and encourage others to not only *not* buy slave-chocolate, but to talk about it!

        My understanding is that neither Lindt nor Ghirardelli (which is owned by Lindt) are certified fair trade . According to Food Empowerment Project’s list (found here: http://www.foodispower.org/chocolate-list/), they do *not* recommend them.

        Regarding Divine, I think it’s worth noting that although Divine is farmer owned (and slave-free), they’re *not* organic. Having said that, they made the recommended list of FEP.

        Neither Trader Joe’s nor Green and Black are on FEP’s recommended list.

        TJ’s didn’t make the cut because of a lack of transparency; they won’t disclose the source of their organics. Also, I just read where Ralcorp is one of the main producers of Trader Joe’s privately labeled, organic, non-GMO items, and Ralcorp was bought by ConAgra, the company who got sued for using GMOs in their 100% ‘Natural’ Cooking Oil.

        Green and Black didn’t respond to FEP’s requests for information. Green and Black was bought by Cadbury (one of the slave-chocolate offenders) in 2005.

        So far in my research, Equal Exchange, AlterEco, Theo and Sjaak’s all seem like winners. Yummy too. I haven’t tried Paul Newman’s organic chocolate yet, but I intend to eventually.

        I also have to agree with you, Equal Exchange seems like the best bet for affordable Halloween chocolate. Plus, after taste testing for a few weeks now, I can honestly say I love their fair trade model, fundraising opportunities *and* their chocolate! Whole Foods also sells bags of smaller sized, wrapped chocolate made by Sjaak’s for Halloween, which is another option I’ve yet to taste test.

        • I’m confused by your use of this list to determine what brands are fairly traded. This list says it’s for companies that make vegan chocolates which are fairly traded. While I understand many people choose vegan products due to potential animal cruelty, that’s not what this post was about. Are there additional reasons that the brands people are mentioning who do claim to be fairly traded are not on this list besides not being vegan?

          • Hi Chrystal ~ Some fairly traded chocolate may not appear on any of their lists simply because they’re not aware of them yet. If you happen to know of one and would like for their volunteer staff to check the company out, you can always try to contact them – I’ve done that with a local company I recently heard about.

            Also, if you click on the blue highlighted text on the same page as the list, they explain *how* they arrive at their chocolate recommendations. Hope that helps.

          • Hi Chrystal ~ Some fairly traded chocolate may not appear on any of FEP’s lists simply because they’re not aware of them yet. If you happen to know of one and would like for their volunteer staff to check the company out, you can always try to contact them – I’ve done that with a local company I recently heard about. Also, if you click on the blue highlighted text on the same page as the list, they explain *how* they arrive at their chocolate recommendations.

            I tried to respond to your question once before, but I think my comment may have disappeared (?) If it happens to reappear, sorry for the duplicate reply.

        • But it says right on their explanation that the chocolates chosen for the list don’t involve human or animal slavery- ie, vegan. So other brands that aren’t vegan (because they have milk in them, or some other animal product) can’t be on that list even if they provide fair wages. All I’m saying is it’s fine to post about animal cruelty too but you should clarify that’s what you’re doing, because this post isn’t about that. Unless you just weren’t aware that the list was for vegan products containing fairly traded chocolate?

          • Chrystal ~ I think I understand your question. It’s good that you asked so anyone else reading isn’t confused or put off by the list.

            Actually, there are probably quite a few companies on FEP’s chocolate list that make milk chocolate too, which is why they make a point of saying, ” . . . all of the companies make vegan chocolates but they may also sell non-vegan chocolates . . . ”

            While I’m not familiar with *all* of the 150+ brands listed, I happen to know of at least four that make milk chocolate products – Alter Eco, Equal Exchange, Theo and Newman’s Own Organic. Like I said, there are probably quite a few more.

            Because Food Empowerment Project’s chocolate list is so extensive, I’ve found it to be a very helpful jumping-off point, which is why I included it in my comment. It can be challenging sorting through information. We’re all in this together, and I appreciate anyone whose work or research makes it a bit easier for more of us to choose mindfully. The list is also available as a Smartphone application.

            Adding ~ I don’t represent FEP nor am I a vegan, though we do try to purchase from farms where animals have been raised humanely. Hope that helps to clarify.

    • Ghirardelli is owned by Lindt and appears to be ok
      http://www.ghirardelli.com/compliance-information

      Good news since we snack on their dark chocolate chips all the time ;-)

      • Rebecca ~ Unfortunately, Ghirardelli-Lindt is not fair trade. I wish they were. They source their cocoa from Ghana, not as bad as some West African locations, but still a place where child slavery is common. They, along with several other large chocolate companies, have signed on to the 2020 Pledge, promising to comply with reliable 3rd party certification by that date, which is still a long way off: http://www.examiner.com/article/is-there-child-slavery-your-chocolate

        This pledge follows other pledges that have come and gone beginning in 2001, when the story of child-slavery in the chocolate industry first broke and the public was outraged.

        If you love dark chocolate, Equal Exchange and Alter Eco have some of the smoothest I’ve ever tasted. Even my husband (a milk-chocolate lover) enjoys them.

  20. I had never thought about Halloween candy as having their fair trade counterparts, so thank you for shedding some light on this topic. I actually don’t buy Halloween candy as we live in an apartment complex and no one comes around to trick or treat, but I will tweet this post hoping others can join as well. Thanks!

  21. Thank you so much for including Askinosie on this list!

  22. Thanks for this great post. Does anyone have a good brand of ethically produced chocolate chips that they love? I need something I can order–not a lot of options in our little town.

    • I shared about chocolate chips in the comment here. :)

    • For anyone who orders through Azure Standard, their bulk chocolate chips are sourced from Peru. They also sell an allergen free version (not cheap, but several people have asked about that) and bulk Sunspire chocolate chips. I don’t have any affiliation with Azure, they’ve just been my source for chocolate chips since I started committed to buying slave-free chocolate two years ago, so I thought I’d share.

  23. avatar
    Amy Murphy says:

    I live in Hershey, Pennsylvania. So, reading this post, cut to my heart. I can smell the chocolate wafting into my window as I type. In all good conscience, I could not stop buying the chocolate that fuels my local economy. I thought I would do a little research (and it is little; I haven’t looked into this extensively.) But, I do believe you are painting a broad brushstroke, and maybe I’m reading in to what you’ve said too much, but it’s not as if the Hershey company is doing nothing to change the climate of labor where they source their beans. They have initiatives in Ghana and Nigeria to help farmers there. They work extensively with the IDH, and one press release states, “Hershey Learn to Grow Ghana is helping more than 1,000 farm families and 5,000 cocoa community members improve their livelihoods by learning the latest in modern farming techniques and agricultural stewardship, including appropriate and inappropriate uses of labor.” Maybe it doesn’t seem like a lot, but it is a start.
    I just wanted to offer a little for the other side of the argument, or at least defend my town just a little.

    • Sigh… I get this, Amy, I do, especially because it’s local to you. I can imagine it’s a difficult decision for you to wrestle with. I read about the initiatives some of these larger companies are making, and it’s an excellent start. It is.

      As a family, I can’t in good conscience buy their chocolate until there’s documented, verifiable change happening, and is labeled as such on their packaging.

      But as always, total grace here… Do what’s best for your family. :) Thanks for sharing, Amy.

    • I was wondering if there were any other comments from those in Hershey. I’m with you Amy. My husband’s family is from and still lives in Hershey, and we both went to college within wafting distance of the factory. I could afford college based on a scholarship I received from Hershey. I’ve met Hershey execs and I know a lot of families dependent on the factory for their income. A tough thing with Hershey too, is Hershey Park and most of the Hershey “attractions”, as well as the Milton Hershey school, are NOT the same company as the Hershey Factory. At one point they were, but they haven’t been since the 20’s. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hershey_Entertainment_and_Resorts_Company

      I cannot even bare the thought of child labor… but I need to think this through a lot.

  24. We buy only fair trade chocolate, and since it does cost more, we don’t buy alot of it. We buy pretty much only Shaman Chocolate and use it sparingly in baking, or give it as gifts.

    Tsh, thank you for this timely article — you write so clearly and succinctly about how our purchases impact so many children and families across the globe. We can have a huge effect by not buying chocolate from companies that use unethical child labor (and yes, I also struggle with the knowledge that if people completely stop buying from Hershey’s, etc, those children and their families may be worse off in some ways.) Also, The Dark Side of Chocolate is a very good documentary. I have watched it with two of my best friend’s kids and they received it well because I was there to talk about it with them. I recommend it to anyone and their kids but watch it *with* your kids.

    Thank you for including Shaman Chocolate in the list of great chocolate companies. Shaman Chocolate has been our chocolate-of-choice for years. Not only are we avoiding the child-labor issue when we buy Shaman Chocolate, but we are also helping to support the traditional lifestyle of the Huichols of Mexico with each Shaman chocolate bar we buy.

  25. I have recently pinned several recipes to make your own chocolate bars or chocolate chips. Would the issues in this post apply to buying cooa powder as well?

    • Yes, unfortunately – because it starts at the cocoa bean, which they use for all forms of chocolate.

      • avatar
        Elise Neufeld says:

        Being concerned about cocoa powder, I contacted the company which supplies cocoa powder to our local Costco (Rodelle brand), and was shocked to get an email back within a few hours from their president. I was so impressed with his answer that I reproduced it below:

        “It is very important to our company that our vanilla and cocoa are sustainably and socially sourced. Myself and our procurement team routinely visit our growing regions to personally audit our exporters and farming cooperatives for such issues you have mentioned. I was a Peace Corps volunteer many years ago and I learned at an early age how important it is that all parties are treated fairly throughout the supply chain especially when it comes to commodity food products in developing countries. We do source a number of “Fair Trade” products but I do feel that a lot still needs to be ironed out when it comes to the “Fair Trade” certification. Therefore we have established our own criteria based on working with transparent cooperatives supporting them with social programs and paying premium prices to the farmers. I am proud to say we have impacted over 15,000 farmers for the better by having such strict procedures in place. We do have more information on our website regarding our programs. ”

        It’s good to know that even some of the bigger brands are committed to ethical sourcing!

  26. Fantastic post. It’s interesting that you bring up American chocolate is labeled ‘chocolate candy’, because elsewhere it isn’t considered real chocolate. It seems that any word after the word you think you’re eating, means lots of additive and chemicals. I know that sounds confusing–chocolate CANDY, peanut butter SPREAD, cheese PRODUCT are all examples. I’m sure it shocks no one that something labeled ‘cheese product’ isn’t a whole food, but usually the peanut butter spreads are ‘natural’ peanut butters that you don’t have to stir. They are marketed as a ‘healthy and natural’ choice, even though there are many more questionable ingredients than just peanuts. It’s good to be informed about where our food comes from, and what’s in it.

  27. Heartbreaking. Thank you for sharing this information. I will definitely be making different candy choices this Halloween and beyond. Ignorance is not bliss.

  28. It’s incumbent upon the educated and those with means to learn as much as we can to make informed buying decisions. In other words, while I’m grateful for the information you’ve provided here (and to which your readers have added), it’s not ONLY your responsibility to provide me information; it’s mine to delve further to determine if your facts are accurate and if they paint a complete picture.

    OF COURSE you are credible! I DO believe you’ve painted as unbiased picture as you can. But I’d be foolish to leave it at that, right? So thank you for getting me thinking and giving me reason to look into the facts myself. I can choose intentional ignorance (because she IS bliss) or pursue information. One might be easier but the other can change history :).

    • Yes yes yes, Robin! Thank you for this. I can present the info I know, but as consumers, it’s up to ALL of us to do our research and make choices that reflect our convictions.

      A good word, my friend. :)

  29. Wow, I had no idea. Thanks for such an informative post, Tsh.

  30. thanks for this post, tsh.

    the second question that comes to my mind is that if we teach our children that we buy fair trade chocolate from companies who do not use horrific illegal child labour, should we allow our children to eat the chocolate that they pick up on oct 31st that is produced using illegal child labour?

    I’m inclined to say no.

    • It’s a tricky thing, isn’t it? Because you don’t want to come across as judgmental towards others (in our kids’ eyes), because almost everybody buys this candy out of ignorance—no one does it knowingly, I should think. So we’ve told our kids that the M&Ms given to them weren’t because the people who gave it don’t care about the real issue.

      I’m not sure what we’ll do this Halloween… Anyone have any thoughts about that?

      • That is tricky… my family doesn’t celebrate Halloween at all, because we’ve come to understand through our Bible study and research that it isn’t something we want to be involved with.

        But children are very black/white thinkers, so we also have to have lots of dialogue about not being judgmental, not making inappropriate comments if people ask them “What they’re dressing up as for Halloween” etc.

  31. Tsh, you jumped five notches at least on my scale today! Ethical consumerism is such a growing passion. I love this list! I’ve written about several of these companies myself. I even saw the YumEarth lollipops at Target yesterday as I was scanning the candy aisle to find goodies to give out. (I was looking for the Annie’s Halloween Bunny Grahams) Thanks for shedding light on this horrible dark side to chocolate. Normally I like the dark, but only when it comes to a percentage. :)

  32. Good to know! I never really thought about the chocolate I bought before. I will be looking for other brands now. Thanks for the info.

  33. Wow. Until I read this post, I honestly never thought about where the cocoa came from. I will certainly not be purchasing these chocolates for Halloween and have found that where I live (in Canada) 10000 Villages sells a variety of fair trade chocolate bars. I will be trying them out. Thank you for opening my privileged and ignorant North American eyes on this matter.

  34. Thank you! After learning about this issue about 2 years ago, it is a struggle of my conscious every time I purchase chocolate. It knots my gut to read the statistics. But then…. there’s the hope. The list of options and companies that are doing it right! Thank you – thank you – thank you – for leaving us with action items. Hope!

    I was telling my son about how we need to make good buying choices because most coffe beans are picked by kids… his first thought was “THAT’s AWESOME! Then they can get paid lots of money!” When I explained the kids often do not get paid to do their work, he just about fell on the floor. He’s a little fair trade hunter at the store now.

  35. Thanks for this post. It was a check that I needed. Also of note coming into baking season is how we buy and use our sugar. My family switched to fair trade sugar after my husband and I watched “The Price of Sugar” – which I very much reccommend. Now we think twice about how much sugar we use, as it costs (monetarily) much more. But it’s what you do with what you know, right? We could hardly continue buying big brand sugar after learning about the slavery used to harvest it!

  36. I wish there was a way to know the repercussions of these decisions. I am in 100% agreement that child labor and child slavery in any industry is bad and we shouldn’t support it. But is buying our candy from a fair trade company the way to solve the problem? What have we done for the child laborer in the cocoa field? Nothing except reduce an already reduced paycheck, right? How can we practically do something for the child slave in the cocoa fields? I wish there were easy answers for hard questions.

    • I’m commenting on my own comment…this article is really getting to me. I’ve been thinking about this stuff alot in the past several months as a I’ve been learning about GMO and other environmentally conscious and human rights issues. This article has caused me/inspired me to adopt a compassion child. My husband and I keep saying “we should do that” but never get around to doing it. This article presents a lot of great info, but I don’t see how (and honestly speaking I haven’t researched fair trade groups to know) buying fair trade chocolate or coffee helps the child laborer. While I don’t have a lot of free time at this point in my life (I have a newborn) to research this and I can’t fix the problem of child labor and child slavery, I can make a difference for at least one child. I can cut my grocery budget and use that money to support one child. Maybe if we all stopped spending $ on chocolate and coffee from child labor sources and spent that money sponsoring a compassion child or another organization doing similar work, we really could make a difference for child laborers.

      • Hooray Lauren!

      • Sponsoring a Compassion child: perfect idea. If anyone wants more info on this, head here. Thanks for that suggestion, Lauren.

        Regarding your thoughts on how this doesn’t help the child laborer… you’re right, it doesn’t on a micro level. The effort here is on a more macro level; the hope being that if enough of us (thousands and thousands of us) stop buying bad chocolate, the entire industry would eventually change. There’s a chance they’d still use child labor, but it would be done much more ethically—fair wages, increased safety, freedom to go to school (which is in violation of the ILO). Things like that.

        So your idea to support a Compassion child is perfect, in my opinion. Stop buying bad chocolate, buy good chocolate, AND help one family be released from the cycle of poverty.

      • So right Lauren. Thanks.

    • Hi Lauren, Yes. They are hard questions and I know from experience that there are no simple solutions. I have worked professionally in non profit work in Uganda for nearly a decade. Several years ago my husband and I started a fair trade business because we saw the ugly problems of systemic aid in Africa and the devastating lack of work in communities and families we were trying to help. The kids in our orphanage were graduating and there were no good jobs. One of the reasons fair trade is awesome is because it pays an adult a fair wage for their labor. Those adults don’t have those cocoa jobs now because farms can use cheap or free kids. Or even the working adults are paid next to nothing. But when a fair trade business pays a mom or dad, aunt or uncle WELL it ultimately helps the child laborer because suddenly his mom is making a decent living. She is able to feed her family. She puts her kids in school. She buys their medicine. And SHE is the one doing it through her salary. The artisans our company buys from are all supporting their children, putting them through school. Their kids are healthy and enjoying their childhoods because their parents or guardians are fruitfully employed. Of course, that’s the simple version. Poverty and family relationships are truly complex things. There is no one dimensional solution or one size fits all approach. I just wanted to assure you that fair trade does make a difference for exploited children and over time as consumers support such ethical endeavors it can only get better. There used to be similar child labor and abuses in England and America. Over time the public grew outraged and demanded change. Laws were passed which prevented exploitation of workers in our country. Sadly not all countries have such laws and in today’s global marketplace it’s easy to enter other nations and treat people like garbage so companies can profit or keep prices down. Hopefully great posts like this one and other multiplying voices will shed light on these acts and folks will begin pressuring companies to change. It’s all happening so far away it’s hard to know all the atrocities. I SO appreciate the exposure for this issue here and hope we can all show love to our neighbors around the world by being wise in what we buy.

      • Such a great comment, Jamie. Your personal experience and observations add much to the discussion about Fair Trade and it’s original model.

        One thing I’d add (for anyone who’s interested) is how workers here in the US -often, though not always poor immigrants performing various forms of manual labor – can be terribly abused and exploited too. Some examples would include migrant farm workers, garment workers working under slave-like conditions in sweatshops, domestic workers, and even sometimes restaurant employees.

        Much like Pandora’s Box, once we start looking at the world differently and are willing to take a closer look at some of the injustices that go on behind the scenes, we can never go back to not knowing. It’s okay though, because so long as we act on that knowledge, there’s *hope* at the bottom of the box.

        Learning about chocolate’s connection to child-slavery and deciding to advocate for slave-free chocolate, was only the beginning for me. Now I find I’m far more motivated to carefully consider the choices I make each and every day as a consumer. It’s affected how and where I shop, what I buy (and why) and what I choose to eat. It’s also meant going without some of the things I used to love (or *thought* I loved) now that I understand how my choices hold the potential to unintentionally cause harm and were mostly based on illusions.

      • Thanks so much for shedding light on this! This turned a light bulb on for me, I appreciate you sharing your experience.

  37. I honestly had no idea. I passed that mess around for our last church fair to encourage children to sign up for choir. I am heart broken, just heart broken. It will not happen again. We sell fair trade coffe at church, but give away the stuff that is not. It makes no sense!

    I am gong to re-read this before my next rehearsal and offer up the chocolate choices to the parents.

    thank you,

    Pam

    • Sounds like a good plan, Pam! But also? Don’t beat yourself up over it. Happens to all of us, and the important thing is what you do now, since you now know. All grace, my friend. :)

  38. Hi All,
    What do you know about Crio Bru? The one I currently drink is from Ecuador, but I remember seeing one that is from the Ivory Coast.
    Thanks for all the great (albeit painful to read) info, Tsh!

  39. I’m so thankful to see an article like this on your mainstream and popular site. It feels like as a culture we are moving in a positive direction on this. Our family switched all our chocolate about four years ago to ethical brands. As a plus we eat less, but what we eat is healthier – dark chocolate, less sugar, less questionable ‘additions’. And belonging to a food coop has helped us lower our costs by avoiding markup.

  40. AWESOME post! Tsh, do you mind if I repost some of this post and then link back to your blog? I am running a month long campaign on Chocolate in October on http://www.doalittlegood.com and would love to repost the info and link back to you. You basically wrote, listed and linked everything I was working on for this weeks, post! :) Yea for getting the word out about chocolate and all the great alternatives!

  41. Thank you. Great post! :)

  42. I have been trying to source fair-trade chocolate chips for some time now without a lot of luck–I was happy to discover that Whole Food’s new line of 365 chocolate chips are all fair trade! There is semi-sweet and milk and dark chocolate chunks, I think. They are quite reasonably priced, as well.

    For those that do not have a Whole Foods nearby, I did find Guittard fair trade chocolate chips on line, possibly on amazon? I haven’t ordered them myself but Guittard makes very high quality chocolate.

  43. I wrestle with this every year at this time. Our son has a peanut allergy, and finding fair trade, ethical Hallowe’en sized chocolate that’s also nut-safe in Canada is… well, we haven’t found it yet. We have given out things like mini tins of Playdough and this year I’m thinking glow sticks, in lieu of chocolate.

    • Another great idea!

    • We have given out toothbrushes for the past several years. I have a pretty good sweet tooth myself. However, with all the sugar going around from now until January, we think it’s a good tool to give out. We buy bulk and let the kids pick their own color. We get lots of positive comments from the kids and parents every year.

  44. Found this interesting little grading-card for the major chocolate companies: http://www.betterworldshopper.org/chocolate_data.html

  45. I actually don’t buy chocolates from any of the mainstream brands in the first place because they all process theirs in facilities with peanuts/nuts, which I am allergic to – but now, I have another reason to avoid them. Unfortunately though, I don’t know of too many Fair Trade companies that process without peanuts/nuts either. I do know that Sunspire chocolate chips are Fair Trade and peanut/nut-free. I’d love to know if you come across any others!

  46. A big part of me hesitates to even ask this because, well, who isn’t against child slavery! I think others are wondering, too, though so I’ll ask.

    How do you decide which “causes” to take up with your kids (and yourself for that matter)? A few years ago I was seriously struggling with all of the bad in the world and trying to always make the RIGHT choices. Was it really right to buy a new couch when I could buy a used one that wasn’t using up more of our environment’s resources?? Should I ever eat beef since cows require significantly more of the finite space in our environment? Should I buy foods that aren’t fair trade when other moms are having to send their small children out to work in unsafe conditions?

    What I finally decided, for that time, was that I had to pick a couple of things. I couldn’t do every single “right” thing and I was driving myself crazy.

    I’d love to hear how other people set their priorities knowing that NO ONE does it all.

  47. Tierra Farms! They are organic and fair trade and are a great source for chocolate chips as well as chocolate-covered fruits and nuts (and COCONUT!). But they also carry coffee, dried fruits, and nuts. I actually host bulk buys for them through my co-op group. It’s on Facebook (search for4 The Squirmie Worm, we are a group-please delete this if its not allowed :) ) . They are a great place to stock up on holiday baking necessities.

  48. avatar
    Elise Neufeld says:

    Hello everyone,

    I have been doing a lot of thinking on this subject, as I am troubled by the thought that the chocolate used in my house may have been produced through exploitation. I have done a some research, and was surprised to find out that Hershey and Mars (likely due to pressure from fair trade activists) have committed to only using 100% certified chocolate by 2020! I was very pleased to read this, as it means that these large corporations are taking note and are starting down a path to sustainability. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start. (http://www.raisethebarhershey.org/raise-the-bar-hershey-campaign-welcomes-hershey%E2%80%99s-announcement-to-source-100-certified-cocoa-by-2020/)

  49. I had no idea. I’ve been avoiding most chocolate lately simply due to the GMO garbage they throw in now, not to menton Hershey’s change to use PGPR which caught my eye not too long ago! Anyway, not a clue about the ILO and the issues they found with Chocolate. Thank you for the information.

  50. I am a big fan of Lake Champlain Chocolates in Burlington, Vermont. Their website explains some of their efforts to source locally and ethically and working toward eliminating GMOs from their ingredients list. They make cute seasonal items, gift sets, truffles, hot chocolate, and bars.

    http://www.lakechamplainchocolates.com/about-us/

    Thank you for encouraging me to think more about this!

  51. Can we do more than just not buy? Whether we like the labor practices or not, these families depend on this work to support their families. If we take away the income source, we are making a different problem. Often children work because their families can’t afford to send them to school anyway. I am not at all advocating for child labor but I am advocating for supporting a family’s income source. Can we please write, call, contact these companies and inundate them with complaints?

  52. avatar
    Jennifer L says:

    For special occasions I love Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier in Madison WI. She personally sources all her chocolate from farmers and pays above-fair-trade prices for it. https://gailambrosius.com/about-gail/its-about-respect

  53. Thanks for the info and video. I’ve already begun discussing the ethics of this with my 9 yr old as a result.

  54. Thank you so much for this post! This wasn’t something that ever crossed my mind so I am happy to learn more. I just purchased my fair trade chocolate Halloween kit.

  55. This was a great article. Thanks! This link shows what Cargill is doing to change these practices: http://www.cargill.com/news/releases/2011/NA3051741.jsp

  56. Thanks for this eye-opening post! I don’t buy much chocolate in our family because my son is allergic. So for those occasional chocolate treats for myself, I will be on the lookout for the right stuff now. Thanks for informing me!

  57. Thanks for sharing this post, Tsh. I buy an organic, fair trade dark chocolate bar from Trader Joes. It’s delicious and I’m glad to know that it’s not produced by the hands of children. I’m sharing this post for sure. Oh, and thanks for such a great list of fair trade and organic candy!

  58. Not sure if anyone has already mentioned it, but a lot of chocolate, even organic fair trade chocolate, can contain dangerously high levels of lead. http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/6738/description/Leaden_Chocolates

  59. Great post. It is a little overwhelming to think about all the potential areas where slavery is present in consumer industry. To add to the chocolate: textiles and technology. How do you go about buying clothes and purchasing computer/cell phone technology? The rampant abuse and negligence in these areas makes me wonder how we should respond.

    • I’ll be writing about clothing sometime in the future… haven’t planned to touching technology, but you’re the second person to ask in about 5 minutes, so maybe I will.

  60. I exclusively eat Chocolove, which I think might be by Shaman? Not quite sure on that, but Chocolove is certified fair trade, which after reading this well written, but sad truth about child slavery makes me happy that gir the past 2-3 years I’ve been unknowingly eating fair trade chocolate :) great post, thanks for enlightening me to this!

  61. I am SO glad you wrote this! I have become increasingly particular about what foods I buy and thought I have been doing an awesome job, but I had no idea about the chocolate companies. Normally I would buy the big names for Halloween, even though we don’t consume that much of it here, but now I will join you in voting with my dollars and spreading the word! I love the Halloween pack with info cards you linked to, ordering some soon!

  62. I’ll admit, even with all this information, my family has done some backsliding in recent months; time to get back on the fair trade bandwagon. The trouble I have is this: all of the fair trade chocolate we buy has a high enough caffeine content that it keeps my kiddo up at night! She can do the Costco chocolate chips, but if we give her a bit of Green & Black’s (even milk chocolate with less cocoa/caffeine content), we’re still up at 3AM.

    Anybody else ever bump into fancy-chocolate-keeps-kid-up-all-night…?

    • Hi MK ~ Know what you mean and I’m an adult. Don’t know if it’ll work for you or not, but Equal Exchange carries a regular size milk chocolate bar that’s 31% cacao.

  63. The link between chocolate and child labor has reduced the chocolate consumption in this house, particularly because it’s harder to afford Fair Trade or Direct Trade products. I’m looking for chocolate chips in particular. Thanks for this post, presents the issue really well. Sharing on fb!

  64. Would it be over-the-top to hand out information with our fair trade chocolate when kids come to our door? Or would that be too much like giving out religious tracts? :)

  65. Well, that takes care of that. I’ve been putting off buying our candy yet just not wanting to go there. Now I know why. Thank you for educating us on the subject.

  66. I appreciate you sharing this. I, too, am conflicted as Ali. I grew up in El Salvador where some of the poorest families have to let kiddos work in order that they don’t starve. I don’t eat chocolate all the time so it’s not an issue for me to switch. I do have a problem, though, with being partially conscious about this matter. I agree with writing a letter or petition.

  67. Thanks so much for this great post. Pinning it. We enjoy Askinosie chocolate from Springfield, MO. Very conscientious company working with farmers and also youth in Springfield.

  68. avatar
    Pauline MacDonald says:

    This post brings up many issues for me. The ethics of it is now going to be more central to our family’s consideration of chocolate products. That means hubby & daughter are covered, but not Mamma.
    I’m usually too busy trying to find chocolate that doesn’t have the risk of nut contamination – as I have anaphylactic allergies to several nuts. Once a chocolate has been deemed nut ‘safe’, then I’m checking dairy issues, as many friends have that issue.

    I noticed you mentioned Enjoy Life chocolate chips, and that while they are not completely behaving on this issue, are trying to ethically source their beans. They have been my ‘go to’ for some time now, and typically, they are who I will continue to support as they also are gluten-free as well, and that too is an issue.

    So, on that angle, would you happen to be aware of other companies that might also be ethical and not lethal (or at least hideous misery-making) for myself & my nut/dairy allergic compatriots?

    Pauline
    Moncton, NB, Canada

  69. I recently visited the TCHO chocolate factory on a trip to San Francisco. They are a bean to bar company and, bonus, if you are in the area you can get a free tour of their factory. http://www.tcho.com

  70. A great post. What I’m concerned about though is chocolate that is peanut-free. My daughter is allergic to peanuts, and it’s already tricky enough to find peanut-free treats (especially chocolate), and most smaller producers can’t afford the peanut-free designation. Do you know of any that you’ve listed in your post that are peanut-free? (Or at least don’t say something like “May contain peanuts”?)
    Thank you!

  71. avatar
    Patty Pivirotto says:

    I love this post. very informative and got me thinking in the right direction about our future chocolate purchases. I have one request /suggestion: can a similar post(s) be done on clothing and shoes? I know in my heart that I am ignorantly buying and using goods made in sweatshops but have yet to do the research to find ethical alternatives. clothing and shoes are essentials and kids grow out of them every year so spending a great deal more on them to buy ethically is so much more tricky than cutting back on chocolate. we actually clothe and shoe our children with many many hand me downs from other families, but it still bothers me that they are most likely made with child labor in sweatshop conditions. I would LOVE an informative post on this with some practical suggestions for families on a budget who want to make ethical purchases on all goods. thank you!

  72. For the kids, I’ve just bought a book called ‘Bitter Chocolate’, by Sally Grindley, about two boys who are slaves to the cocoa trade. We’ve not finished it yet, but I can recommend it so far!

  73. avatar
    Patty Pivirotto says:

    this post was awesome – very informative. can there be similar post(s) on clothing and shoe products and avoiding sweatshops? I want and need to learn more about this . . .

  74. avatar
    Beth Bradley says:

    I don’t have anything to add to the discussion but wanted to go the lighter side and disagree with your statement that “chocolate tastes better outside of America”. I have traveled to Europe and several Asian countries and I now live in Singapore. Unless you want to spend a fortune on each small piece of high-end candy, ordinary supermarket chocolate is better in America. Even our German exchange student said that she was surprised by the taste of chocolate in America. She always thought that German chocolate was the best but she loved the chocolate in the good old USA. There is also a better variety for a reasonable price on the shelves “at home”. I would love a Mars Midnight bar right now!

    • I agree, Beth! The “normal” chocolate here in Czech Republic (Milka, Figaro, Orion, etc), is way inferior to similarly-priced American chocolate.

      For those of you in Europe, Marks & Spencer has a great lineup of Fairtrade chocolates! They are a bit pricey, but they are good. Now that I’ve watched the video, I am willing to pay more for the Fairtrade products.

      Does anyone know about UTZ Certified products? Are they like Fairtrade? Ikea’s chocolate is UTZ Certified.

  75. avatar
    Christina K Harper says:

    Last year my youngest daughter was a bat for Halloween. I’m a huge fan of bats & all they do for us. After a few people questioned what she was & one lady told her she didn’t like bats at all (seriously, did she like the vampire or mummy that came to her door?); my daughter & I talked about not participating in the commercialized Halloween this year. The costumes aren’t made in the US. The kids don’t need the candy (especially if it is supporting child labor) & in today’s economy, not many can afford several bags of candy for kids you don’t know plus costumes. I told her I’d rather take her to a movie that night.

  76. One of my female friends shared this on Facebook. Thank you for sharing. One thing I recommend doing is writing a letter to tell these companies you are not buying their chocolate, and encourage your friends to do the same. Share the letter on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, and mention the companies in your post.

    If their sales drop, but they don’t know why, they may take on more evil practices to try to correct the situation.

    I am also wondering how I can go about figuring out how companies source their chocolate.

  77. Very excited to find you this morning! Wonderful work. :)

  78. See’s candy? Does any one know where they fall on this topic?

    • Great question! I found an app for smartphones that allows the savy shopper to scan the product barcode before purchase to evaluate the product.

      Free2work.com check it out!

      I’ve blogged about it a few times and I am always looking for ways to encourage consume awareness! http://kimberly-cares.com

  79. avatar
    Marisha Thompson says:

    Thank you for this post! We are blessed to live just a few miles from the Askinosie Chocolate Factory. They are an amazing company. They do so much more than make delicious chocolate. I’m inspired to go pay them a visit this weekend :)

  80. Dear Tsh, thank you for writing about the topic of child labour. Like you we take this issue very seriously and are firmly committed to fight all forms of child slavery and exploitation. We are working in close partnership with the Fair Labour Association, to take concrete actions against this. Here you can find very detailed information on the “Nestlé Action Plan of Response to the FLA report” http://bit.ly/10BRXe2 and http://www.thecocoaplan.com.

  81. I think there are some very valid points being made on here about child labor sometimes being the only way of feeding a family. BUT there is a huge difference between child labor and slavery. If the kids are fairly compensated, then it is not a great solution, but it is one we have to accept as other countries have other values and ways of trying to survive. Slavery on the other hand is never ever acceptable. Also, it is very time consuming and that is why I have not done so yet, but I believe to make a real change we would need a different approach than just avoiding to source completely from an area. We need to find the one farmer in Ghana that does not exploit children but hires their parents and pays them fairly. Then we need to give him all the business we can. Once the others see we are avoiding them for their practices and favoring their neighbor, they will slowly change their labor force as well as they don’t want to be left out of the big business. After all, the farmers are in this to make money as well. So now mom or dad can make chocolate and support their families while the kids go to school. In my opinion this is the only way to make an impact without destroying local families’ lives that depend on us buying chocolate. Of course that might also mean our $0.50 chocolate bar might cost us $1 in the future. But that might also be a blessing in disguise as we might be forced to eat less but better quality chocolate. Win-win-win, for the farmers, the families and us.

  82. Thanks for the info! It makes me sad and curious if we could really make the change-old habits die hard you know? Sometimes convenience wins…though I would like to find out more information about all of this and do what is best. Do you happen to know about European chocolate companies or know of how I can find out if they take care of their workers? Thanks so much for sharing this!

  83. Thanks for opening my eyes to this. I don’t eat chocolate very often, since I’m weird and don’t love it, but I will definitely be keeping this in mind when I do buy chocolate.
    One chocolate I do love is the Newfoundland Chocolate Company based out of St. John’s, NL, Canada, they make artisan chocolate in the European style, http://www.newfoundlandchocolatecompany.com/

  84. So… I love the article. I really do. I do my best to buy fair trade coffee. But I haven’t really tried as hard as I should yet because……… (and this is a really really terrible reason – I recogise this)….

    I don’t want an 80% cocoa chocolate bar. I want a Mars bar. Or – I want a kit cat. Or I want a kinder surprise. Or I want a Reese’s.

    And while that’s the world’s worse most selfish reason EVER and I should just stop buying them for the ethical reasons behind them, I constantly fall to the desire to eat Coffee Crisps and O Henrys and Mars Bars because I like them so much more! I wish these super awesome chocolate companies would create a product that I want to eat too!

    Ok – I’m done.

    • Really, I think the reasons I posted that very long very badly written comment is this: Does anyone know where I can buy non-GMO, non-made-by-slave-children chocolate bars comparable to the ones that I love off of the grocery store shelves?

  85. Thank you!! I appreciate the practical tips and accessibility of this post.

  86. I love being a conscientious consumer and have worked to consume fair trade chocolate as best as I can for several years now.

    One brand that frustrates me, however, is Endangered Species Chocolate. You would think that since they are about supporting a good cause that they would be fair trade. But they are not! They are certified in so many things (Rainforest Alliance Certified Cocoa, Gluten Free Certified Chocolate, Certified Vegan Chocolate, Certified Kosher Chocolate, Certified Non-GMO Chocolate), but don’t see the child labor issue as significant enough for another certification sticker on their chocolate, or the extra cost of using ethically sourced cocoa.

    I hope that people reading your article don’t make the mistake of thinking Endangered Species Chocolate is fair trade, as you’ve listed them under the “awesome company” category. Let’s send them the same message: child labor for cheaper cocoa production is not okay!

    • avatar
      Anna Clark says:

      Hi Kristin,

      I just wanted to address your comment regarding Endangered Species Chocolate, which as you noted, features the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal.

      The Rainforest Alliance takes a strong stance against child labor, and child labor of any form is strictly prohibited on all Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. The Rainforest Alliance is proactive in its efforts to help combat child labor through (a) including detailed references to labor conditions and employment of children in our sustainability standards; (b) educating and training farmers; and (c) monitoring labor practices on farms through certification audits and studies.

      “Stop the Traffik” has recognized the Rainforest Alliance, in addition to FT, as defenses against child labor: http://stopthetraffik.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/the-lighter-way-to-enjoy-chocolate/

      In addition to helping to combat child labor, Rainforest Alliance certification helps to protect wildlife and conserve natural resources, while ensuring the rights and well-being of workers, their families and communities.

      Fore more info, visit: http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/agriculture/crops/cocoa

      Cheers,

      Anna

  87. Askinosie chocolates are amazing and direct trade! And he teaches the farmers how chocolate is made and shares it with their families. He also does so much for the local community where the chocolate is sourced as well the local community where the chocolate is made. Truly a conscious company.

  88. Hi, moving video and read. I love chocolate but I love children more and I cannot support my love for chocolate while children are being used so big corp can make a bigger buck.
    I read this article to my children today as part as our home school lesson. They are sad that children their age are being used in this way. They have decided to not pick out those yummy bars and treats but look for better choices for the children of the world.
    My question for Halloween: we can buy better choice chocolate, but what do we do about trick or treating? We don’t want to dress up and get the chocolate that we are trying to not support.

    • I think I figured out the Halloween problem. I am going to purchase some fair trade, non gmo great chocolate and give them to my friends who will then give them to my girls for Halloween. I feel better about this. We will only go to friends/family that I have supplied chocolate to.

  89. I love this! Thank you for unveiling the mystery of the labels, and seriously making it easy to transition to slave-labor-free chocolate (and coffee, by the way, that article was great as well).

    I began a conversation with my children (8,6,4,3) over the summer when we read “Rags and Riches: Kids in the Time of Charles Dickens” from our library summer reading plan and it was a fantastic “beginner” bridge to this important topic. While I believe my children still too young to watch the documentary, it is on our future list.

    I just wanted to chime in and offer a more “young-child friendly” option to open this discussion door. Thanks for all you do Tsh!

  90. I didn’t know this! Living in Africa and knowing how much many children suffer, I’m glad that I know this now. And I totally agree. Chocolate outside of the US tastes better! Less waxy, less sugary! I”m so glad that my favorite chocolate brand is on the “safe” list (Green & Blacks), now I have an excuse to buy more of it :D

  91. I was just reading this post and as a Ghanaian, I have witnessed firsthand the hell these children go through to harvest cocoa for you to the enjoy chocolate. Being against child slavery is good, but it`s not enough. Children must have other options for survival and to lift themselves out of poverty. The only weapon is that of education. My organization works to rescue these poor children and sponsor them to school.Margie Newman is sponsoring a little girl who once worked harvesting onions.Today,she has found a new hope by going to school. If you’re not ready to sponsor a child, I invite you to make a donation to Educate One Child in the amount you plan to spend on Halloween candy this year, or any other amount that is right for you. In many villages in Ghana, education is not a priority for parents because of the costs of simple supplies like pens, books, bags, and uniforms. Your cash donation will help move the above needed supplies to the disadvantaged in Nsawam, Ghana. Should you plan a visit to Ghana,you could visit us for details on what we do. info@youthadvocatesghana.org or ametemma@yahoo.com or make donation here http://www.gofundme.com/youth-advocates-ghana

  92. I also recommend Brooklyn-based Mast Brothers chocolate, which is a small bean-to-bar chocolatier that sources from Venezuela, Ecuador and Madagascar. http://nymag.com/listings/stores/mast-brothers-chocolate

  93. Thank you for the information. My daughter is writing a “why you should buy fair trade chocolate” persuasive speech for our homeschool speech/debate club. I’ll print this for her, as she is looking for more information.
    We “went” fair trade this year after receiving e-mails around Valentine’s Day from World Vision and Convoy of Hope. I could no longer justify my chocolate habit (certainly not a need) at the expense of child labor.
    We toured Askinosie Chocolate in March for my birthday. Fun! It is an interesting company with an interesting backstory. My daughter is hoping to visit again soon and interview an employee for her speech.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Blessings!

  94. Thanks so much for all the research and work you put into this post! The whole slavery in connection with chocolate has been weighing on my heart and in my brain a lot lately but I haven’t really known where to start…now I know. What really broke my heart was reading a phrase in Jen Hatmaker’s book, Seven. One of her friends said she was praying “…for the 27 million slaves and those driving the demand for them.” By buying unethically I am one of those people, driving the demand for slavery. Oh my gosh, stab in the the heart!

  95. The chocolate issue represents one tiny but important piece of a bigger picture. It’s about allowing that small voice of conscience to speak to us and shape our choices.

    This whole post also relates to conscientious investing and how our choices can make a difference there too, sometimes by divesting from those companies whose values we don’t share: http://www.pnhp.org/news/2012/july/presbyterians-tiaa-cref-hear-call-to-divest-from-private-insurance-firms

    Tsh ~ I hope you do write more about these types of subjects. Your post seems to have reached a lot of people which is a very good thing. In addition to my own email campaign, I’ve spend the last few weeks visiting schools, places of worship and other gathering places, trying to get the word out about child-slavery and chocolate. Not sure how effective my efforts have been, but every once in a while I get a positive response and feel encouraged. Thanks again.

  96. avatar
    Sharyn Kopf says:

    Thank you for this article, Tsh.

    One thing I need clarification on: The article says the children are forced into labor on these farms and the answer is to buy Fair Trade chocolate – which means the farmer was paid a fair price – or to look for chocolatiers buying directly from the farmer. OK, but if the farmer is the one directly responsible for the forced child labor, how do either of these benefit the kids? Sounds like it benefits the farmers, but do we want to help them? Wouldn’t it be better to make it harder on them to sell chocolate UNLESS they hire & pay for legitimate labor? Isn’t that the proof we need? Or am I missing something and the farmers are victims too?

    It seems we should look to only buy chocolate grown in Central and S. America, where slavery isn’t an issue. But I find it strange that you put this fact in parentheses, as if it’s a throwaway bit of information. But isn’t that the main point?

    If you can clear this up, that would be appreciated.

  97. I’m not saying it’s right, but all countries had periods of child labor on their path to 1rst world status. The US certainly did.

    Remember when it came out about the terrible child labor in Sri Lanka, where children were being “forced” to make our Nike tennis shoes? We took the moral high ground and closed those factories down… which resulted in those children being worse off because they were unemployed and many of them turned to prostitution.

    I’m not sure what the right thing to do is, but many of those children and their families are able to survive BECAUSE of our appetite for chocolate.

  98. i’m really hoping we make the jump to non-candy treats so im not the only grumpy-lady-down-the-block-who-gives-out-toothbrushes. cavities are expensive!

    i mean we did it in my school for birthdays, let’s make Halloween sugar free. don’t hate!

  99. Wow…how did I not know this before? I just felt an extreme need to call my husband and scream ‘BACK AWAY FROM THE HERSHEY BAR’.

    It may actually happen.

    That being said…thank you for spreading the word. I will definitely be more aware when buying, and will pass on the info.

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