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Fair Trade Chocolate - How Sweet are Your Sweets for Valentines Day?

By Rebel Fagin

On Valentine’s Day we show our love through flowers, poems and chocolate. Some chocolate comes with blood in it.

A great deal of chocolate is grown in northwestern Africa in: Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Guinea and Burkina. Some of it is harvested with forced child slave labor.

Children are abducted from their homes and communities and driven several hundred miles away. These children are totally dependent on their captors for survival. Once in unfamiliar territory, they are put to work harvesting and splitting the large cocoa shells for the fruit inside. The companies claim these children are there because their families send them and in some cases this is true. Other children are kidnapped and forced to work under penalty of beatings.

Naturally the companies involved denied using child slave labor, but one look inside the cocoa forests killed that lie. Then these companies stated that these children were of the minimum age for child labor, 12. Watch The Dark Side of Chocolate and tell me what you see. The children I saw looked closer to 6 or 7 than 12. They looked frightened as they worked silently and swiftly lest the overseer catch them slacking off and beat them.

Nobody wants to express love this way. There are alternatives. Look for the labor label on the product. If it says certified Fair Trade that means no child labor was used. It also means that workers were allowed to organize for fair, negotiable wages. Fair Trade means 100% compliance with these standards. There are a number of companies who make Fair Trade chocolate: Equal Exchange, Sjaak’s, Divine, Evolla, Altereco Foods, Sweet Riot, Green & Blacks, Madecasse andLoving Earth amongst them. Another label of quality in labor is Fair for Life. Fair for Life means that at least 50% of all ingredients used meet Fair Trade standards. These chocolates include Theo Chocolate, Bernrain, Lake Champlain Chocolate, Vigneauti Chocolatier and Zazubean Chocolate.

The corporate giants of the sweets industry don’t show much concern for their workers. The top five chocolate companies to employee child labor are Hershey’s, Fowler’s Chocolate, Nestles, Godiva and Mars.

Kraft and Mars carry the Rainforest Alliance certification. This means no child slavery was used on 30% of the primary ingredients. The other 70% could be produced by child slavery. There is no minimum price for cocoa beans required through this certification.

Below this lies Nestle, which is UTZ certified. UTZ requires that farmers receive a minimum wage after their first year of certification. If they don’t survive the first year, they don’t get the minimum wage. UTZ forbids slavery and workers can organize, however, all prices are set between the buyers and each individual farmer. No collective bargaining is allowed.

At the bottom of the heap squats Hersheys. There has been progress, sort’a. The Raise the Bar direct action campaign of 2011 led to Hershey’s announcing plans to “source 100% certified cocoa” by 2020. At this point it looks like the certification will be by UTZ, Rainforest Alliance or Fair Trade. Until then, Hershey’s profits roll in laced with the tears of children.

How sweet are the sweets you’re buying for Valentine’s Day?

Check it out first - then enjoy a truly loving Valentine.

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