Slave chocolate – as dark as it gets

You’re at home, in the kitchen doing the dishes. You look through the window and see your two sons, 8 and 10 years old, having fun att the playground further down the road. You smile to yourself and turn your attention again at the dirty plates and bowls in the sink. Minutes later the noise from a car startles you and you look up again. You see a dark van speeding up down the street, away from you. You look back at the playground, and your kids aren’t there anymore. You panic, run out the door, scream for them, but no one answers. Your kids are gone and nobody cares. There’s no one to call, no one to go to and no one to help you.

This nightmare scenario is probably nothing you have to worry about, but if you are poor and live in Mali, Burkina Faso or Togo, this is reality. There it happens every day as slave dealers kidnap and buy children for transportation to the Cocoa plantations in the Ivory Coast. There they are forced to work under extreme conditions, beaten and constantly exposed to pesticides. Because of the cheap labour, the cocoa is sold cheap to companies like Nestlé, Hershey and others, while they in turn can offer us cheap chocolate with a taste of child slavery. 70% of the worlds cocoa comes from the West Africa, which means that it’s very likely that it’s present in the chocolate you eat if the package doesn’t say otherwise.

Two years ago I watched the documentary “The Dark Side of Chocolate” a film made by Miki Mistrati & U. Roberto Romano and I was chocked. It’s an eye-opener where they closely examine every step of the supply chain of our chocolate; they even managed to go inside a plantation and interview some of the kids. If you haven’t seen it, watch it. (There’s an embedded version in the end of this post)

After I had watched this film I somewhat naively expected fast and strong reactions from people, just as the headlines had shouted out some years before, that clothes from H&M were made by Chinese child workers and wares from Ikea as well, which in both cases forced these companies to act fast and do something about it. But not much happened, at least not in a magnitude comparable to the other cases.

It seems, though, that it started something, an increasing pressure and awareness which at least has made most companies realize that they have to do something. But a little something isn’t good enough and one has to remember that Big Chocolate has profited on these child slaves many years and successfully stalled efficient legislation in their home countries, fully aware of what has been going on in the plantations. Hershey, the biggest cocoa buyer in the world, has hardly taken any action, until this February as a result of the campaign “Raise the bar, Hershey!” by International Labor Rights Forum.

Last Friday I was in the supermarket with my daughter and she wanted a chocolate bar as Friday candy. I asked her to at least choose a chocolate bar with the “Fair Trade” certification, which she agreed to. But it was hard to find. Only some bars from Lindt had the mark. We discovered, though, that some of the more expensive bars from Marabou (Kraft Foods) had a Rainbow Alliance Certification which in the description sounded fair. When we read on the backside of the package, they stated, though, that they only guarantee that 30% was slave-free, which means that 70% of the cocoa is not accounted for. Why? Well, they claim that there isn’t enough slave-free cocoa to buy on the market for the entire chocolate bar, and I guess when it comes to the cheaper bars without the certification they are cheap just beacause of the slave labour.

Apparently there are companies like Lindt that guarantee 100% control of the cocoa and I for one are going to try to choose brands (here is a list of other ethical companies) that are less dirty than the others, or at least look for Fair Trade marks.
Shady business doesn’t like light, it thrives because of the darkness and this is my little pocket torch contribution to hunt down some shadows. I hope you go and fetch yours.


The Dark Side of Chocolate:

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Comments (2)

AurgrunnApril 24th, 2012 at 16:15

Och Nestlé utmärker sej igen…eller ff snarare.

PärApril 24th, 2012 at 16:25

Ja, det gör de verkligen. En av storsponsorerna. Undrar hur det känns att jobba där.

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