Americans Want Slave-Free Chocolate, Too

When I was in London last April, I walked into a local convenience store for a chocolate fix to help relieve some jet lag.  I browsed through options for chocolate, looking for bars that I wouldn’t necessarily find back home in the United States.  My scanning stopped when my eyes fixed on a Cadbury Dairy Milk bar that looked like this:

Here were my immediate thoughts:  Cadbury?  Fair trade?  When did this happen?  This is so exciting! Oh, but why don’t I see the little Fair Trade logo on the Cadbury eggs?

I purchased the Cadbury milk bar and left the caramel egg behind.  Later, I learned from colleagues at Stop the Traffik that Cadbury’s decision to receive the Fair Trade certification for its Dairy Milk product came two years into the Stop the Traffik Chocolate Campaign.  Cadbury became one of the first big chocolate companies to begin to go Fair Trade.  The good news:  grassroots consumer pressure through the campaign convinced Cadbury to produce cocoa under international standards that prohibit forced labor and the worst forms of child labor.  The bad news:  Cadbury’s bars are only Fair Trade in the U.K.; you won’t be able to find them in the United States – yet.

When our chocolate is not fair trade, we don’t know what working conditions went into producing it.  According to a U.S. Department of Labor Report released in 2009, cocoa is one of the main raw goods produced by forced labor or child labor.  In August 2009, Interpol investigated the production of cocoa in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, which make about 70% of the world’s cocoa.  Thousands of children are estimated to be trafficked in these two countries for cocoa production.  Interpol found children bought by plantation owners for cheap labor, working in extreme conditions, and carrying loads heavy enough to cause physical harm.  The children regularly worked 12 hours a day, received no pay and no education.  Girls were purchased as house maids.

Tulane University conducted a four-year study corroborating much of Interpol’s findings:  “Among child cocoa workers between the ages of 5-17, 43% in Ivory Coast and 74.7% in Ghana report injuries while working in cocoa production, including wounds, broken bones, and snake bites.”

Fortunately, the International Labor Rights Forum, Global Exchange, and Green America have been working to bring Cadbury’s and other companies’ Fair Trade products to the United States.  The major obstacle for Cadbury?  Hershey is the manufacturer of Cadbury chocolate in the U.S. and allegedly one of the worst offenders of not taking action on its commitment to help reduce forced labor and the worst forms of child labor.  According to Green America, Cadbury’s Fair Trade progress in the U.K. demonstrates that “it is viable for a major chocolate bar to go Fair Trade without passing a significant cost increase to consumers.”  It is human sense and makes business sense.

As consumers, let’s encourage Hershey –‘The Sweetest Place on Earth’ – to make it that much sweeter for the children and communities who produce the chocolate in American markets.  Sign the petition through the International Labor Rights Forum, calling on Hershey to “Raise the Bar!”

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