Sources: The Frog Blog UK, Fooducate

Not that many people know about the child labor and human trafficking that’s involved in chocolate production, or they wouldn’t dare give a box of chocolate as a gift for Valentine’s Day. Seems like my last post has garnered a few hits, but I didn’t explain what slave-free chocolate was, only where you could find it. To start, you can check out The CNN Freedom Project: there’s a section dedicated to slavery in the chocolate industry. I highly recommend the documentary The Dark Side of Chocolate as a primer into cocoa, child trafficking, and what the chocolate industry has (not) been doing. You can get the DVD (and info on how to host a screening) for $6 here. Watch it, show it to your friends and family, and help spread consumer awareness to urge companies to stop using slave labor in their cocoa.

While you’re waiting for the video to come in the mail, here’s a quick rundown of the state of chocolate today:

Cocoa

Source: EduClayton

Most chocolate candy uses cocoa, sugar, and milk if it’s not bittersweet. Nearly 50% of all the world’s cocoa comes from Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and an estimated 600,000 children work on the cocoa plantations. Many of these children are trafficked from neighboring countries with the promise of work to help support their families, only to be kept as slaves. In 2001, after a series of investigative reporting and documentaries exposed slave labor in the world’s cocoa, the major players, fearing actual government regulation, got together and promised to voluntarily address child labor on their own. 10 years later, the investigators in The Dark Side of Chocolate found children still being smuggled into Côte d’Ivoire and working plantations.

Sugar

Source: TopNews

Sugar is another ingredient of chocolate candy that is often made with the price of freedom. In 2004 and 2008 alone, thousands of slaves were found working in Brazil, including some sugar plantations. In 2010, even Wal Mart stopped buying sugar from the Brazilian company Cosan when it was added to a slavery blacklist by the Brazilian government. It turns out the company was mistakenly added because 42 of their slaves had already been liberated 3 years prior. In the Caribbean, Haitians are brought into the Dominican Republic to work the sugar plantations and often face poor working and living conditions in the bateyes where the live. Depending on who you ask, Haitians either are trafficked into the country and forced to live in slave-like conditions with no sanitation, electricity, or running water, or Haitians live in “conditions that are significantly better than those in [the] documentary,” The Price of Sugar. As with any issue of human rights, politics and economics clash and the people whose lives are at stake get lost in the fray.

So there’s a quick rundown on the slavery involved in two of the main ingredients in chocolate. If you don’t want to support slave labor and human trafficking this Valentine’s Day, be sure to check out my other post on where to find slave-free chocolate.

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