Monday, August 18, 2008

Slave Chocolate Is Not Pure Chocolate

You may have noticed Hershey's new ad campaign in which the company boasts of the purity of its chocolate. The centerpiece of the marketing blitz are commercials featuring chocolate that takes the form of good-looking people living a carefree, idyllic life. These 30-second spots, set to the tune of a cover of Modern English's "I Melt With You," repeatedly describe Hershey's chocolate as "pure" ("pure happiness," "pure delicious," etc.).

Here's the problem: Hershey's, like most major chocolate manufacturers, buys much of its cocoa from West Africa and particularly Côte d'Ivoire; hundreds of thousands of cocoa industry workers in West Africa are children; several thousand of the children picking cocoa beans in Côte d'Ivoire may be victims of human trafficking. Though Congress passed legislation back in 2001 mandating that chocolateers must "wean themselves from child labor, then certify that they had done so," an article earlier this year in Fortune magazine suggests that little progress has been made:

Researchers found that while industry and governments in West Africa have made initial steps, such as establishing task forces on child labor, conditions on the ground remain bad: Children still work in cocoa production, regularly miss school, perform dangerous tasks and suffer injury and sickness. The report criticized the governments of Ivory Coast and Ghana for lack of transparency. And it said the industry's certification process "contains no standards."

Hershey's, like Nestle, Cadbury, and others, needs to do more to ensure that its chocolate is as pure as these new commercials say it is. In the meantime, I'll need to figure out what to do with the bag of Rolos® already in my cupboard. Do I throw them away in protest, or do I eat them, so as not to dishonor the hard work of the children responsible for the cultivation of the candies' primary ingredient?


Blogger Rodney North said...

Thank you for telling folks about this issue.

For really in-depth information, including some action steps, I'd encourage people to go to this page at the International Labor Rights Forum.

I'd also encourage people to consider joining the Reverse Trick-or-Treat campaign this upcoming Halloween. It's a relatively easy, fun way to educate your neighbors about a subject that is otherwise difficult to bring up. Hint: it involves giving away Fair Trade chocolate.

11:51 AM  

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