Chocolate covered criminals

Chocolate is a delicious, delicious treat; however, it is far too often tainted with the sweat of child slaves. While slavery in the chocolate industry remains a small portion of the global slave population (~27 million people enslaved today), it is something that can easily be fixed.

Today, the cacao industry employees somewhere between 15 000 and 100 000 children in the Ivory Coast (as of 2002), which represents 40% of the world chocolate production of about 3.6 million tonnes. Hundreds (if not thousands) of children are trafficked every year from Burkina Faso, Ghana and other countries to work in the Ivory Coast, children go for 230 euros or less.

I don’t think anyone argues this is a good thing, so let’s move straight to possible solutions. To eat chocolate produced through slavery is to support slavery. Or as Frederick Douglas once said,

No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fellow man without at last finding the other end fastened about his own neck.

Chocolate is big business and requires a constant flow of cacao beans at low-cost. By making intelligent purchasing decisions and voicing your concern to cacao bean producers, the use of child labour can be addressed.

How can you help? The safest bet is to buy fair trade chocolate, though limited in availability, it does ensure a certain level of verification. Buying chocolate that uses beans from South America should also reduce your exposure to child slave labour.

The alternative is to try to avoid chocolate by the main companies who do not seem willing to enforce child labour laws in their supply chain (though some are doing more than others). Nestle (Nestle contact page), with 12% world market share, should be your first target, also consider Cargill (, Kraft (Contact Page), ADM (+1-800-558-9958 Contact Page) , Mars (Contact Page) and Barry Callebaut (Contact Page). You can also sign the Avaaz Petition here.

This comprehensive report from Norway lays out details of the chocolate industry in West Africa. A couple of organisations I fell upon include Slave Free Chocolate and work by the Anti Slavery group in the UK with their app (which seems to be down at time of writing) (blog post about it here). Also take a look at this report on the chocolate slave industry entitled Bitter Harvest.

It seems high time to boycott or at least voice your concern to the main chocolate companies we inevitably purchase candy from. Turning a blind eye is no longer acceptable and a short email or tweet is an easy task we can all do. Some dare more.

To expose the truth behind our corner store candy, journalists risk their lives. In 2004, French Canadian journalist Guy-André Kieffer was kidnapped in Ivory Coast and is still missing. Just that should make us appreciate the risks that journalists take when filming these illicit industries. To better understand the situation, take 45 minutes to watch the great documentary “The Dark Side of Chocolate” which lays out the situation quite clearly:

View this movie at

For more information on the current global slavery situation, see this TED Talk by Kevin Bales from Free the

Published on August 8, 2011