After reading an article protesting Hershey on the Huffington Post site, I ventured into the world of Fair Trade cocoa, a domain I’d purposefully left unexplored. Chocolate is amazing – and, let’s face it, essential to a woman’s diet at least once a month – so why would I want to ruin the deliciousness with tales of trafficking, child labor, and unjust prices? But today I took the plunge and watched The Dark Side of Chocolate, forever changing my perspective of that melts-in-your-mouth treat.
Did you known that farmers in Africa, more specifically the Ivory Coast where most chocolate is sourced, are paid only one euro for a kilo of cocoa beans, which produces over 40 chocolate bars? And did you know that the primary source of labor on these plantations is children ages 7 to 15? Yes, boys and girls the tender age of seven are kidnapped or tricked into harvesting those ever so desirable cocoa pods, their only wages the beatings they receive if they work too slow. Not to mention the amount of pesticides they are exposed to throughout their careers.
I think the best parts of the documentary, however, were the interviews with the CEOs of the cocoa factories. I almost thought I was watching a comedy. They came up with some of the most creative lies I’ve ever heard: there are no child laborers, the busloads of kids are just there on vacation, yada yada. Then they’d sit back in their chair and smile, knowing that one little documentary team could not possible harm them as they sat on their thrones of money, broken laws, and chocolate. Nestle even has the nerve to offer “nutrition education” to African children – the ones not enslaved on the cocoa plantations, that is (Nestle.com).
Will all of this change my chocolate eating habits? I will be totally honest: not entirely. The images of crying children and smirking CEOs will probably stay my hand the next time it reaches for a candy bar, but it probably won’t stop me from getting chocolate syrup on my next sundae, or from stealing some of my boyfriend’s chocolate Pop Tarts (which, along with containing no real food, are most definitely not made with Fair Trade chocolate). But I did sign the “Raise the Bar” petition asking Hershey to responsibly source its chocolate (RaiseTheBar.com). And it will be a long time before I can eat a Hershey bar without remorse.