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The Children Producing Your Chocolate



An excellent essay and photo gallery of the African children producing your chocolate. The reality is that the chocolate companies won’t operate their own farms and while they have thrown some money at the problem of child labor, they still haven’t done nearly enough to solve the problem. And while the reasons there are children working on those farms are complex and it is not all the fault of the companies that the situation exists, they certainly can be held responsible for their production of their own product. Perhaps a class-action lawsuit will finally prod them to do so.

The conclusions were not what the chocolate industry or the governments of Ivory Coast and Ghana wanted to hear. Tulane found that 2.1 million children had been engaged in inappropriate forms of child labor in Ivory Coast and Ghana combined—a 21% increase over the 1.75 million identified in its survey five years earlier. Of those, 96% were found to be involved in “hazardous activity.” The number of children reported to be performing dangerous tasks fell by 6% in Ghana but jumped by 46% in Ivory Coast.

There was immediate blowback. A batch of headlines proclaimed that child slavery was on the rise. And in September three California consumers, represented by the same law firm, filed class-action lawsuits against Hershey, Mars, and Nestlé, claiming they wouldn’t have bought the products had they known the candy might be tainted by child labor.

Then, this February, the issue returned to the spotlight when the Supreme Court declined to consider whether to overturn a 2005 lawsuit brought against Nestlé, cocoa supplier Cargill, and Archer Daniels Midland (which got out of the cocoa business last year) on behalf of three unnamed boys who claim to have been trafficked to Ivory Coast and held as slaves. That cleared the way for the case to continue its slow progress toward a possible trial.

A Nestlé spokesperson says the company “looks forward to those proceedings in the lower courts and believes very strongly that the law and facts are on our side.”

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  • River Birch

    Progressives really need to understand that there is no magical, “correct” pattern of consumption that will keep us pure amid global, national and local economies and power structures predicated on racism and exploitation.

    Erik, glad you’re keeping at this, whether it’s chocolate or shrimp or houses in the ‘burbs.

  • DrDick

    Excellent post. I would add that a lot of these child laborers are in fact slaves. How long before JOtto shows up to assure us that there is no child or slave labor in Ghana?

  • Caepan

    You mean that the snobs who look down their noses at me for eating a Hershey bar (which really contains little to no actual chocolate) and inform me that I should be eating something with at least 75% cocoa are the real monsters?

    • Nah, Hershey’s bars are still real chocolate, as are Kisses. Most candy bars are coated with “chocolatey coating” now, though, with the cocoa butter partly or entirely replaced with vegetable oil.

    • DrDick

      Hershey’s has its own problems, right here at home.

  • dm

    I was really happy to hear that Federal officials might finally begin enforcing the ban on these materials. Well I hope they will. I mean I’ve heard this story before. The last time people talked about the problem of child slave labour in the chocolate industry the industry promised to clean up their supply but as we all know that didn’t happen. There was little accountability or real monitoring as far as I could see. Last Halloween I could not believe how impossibly cheap the chocolate was priced at my grocery store. Sure, American chocolate has a lot of wax and weird additives but it does contain chocolate which comes from across the globe.

  • Bruce Vail

    U.S. DOL programs to reduce child labor overseas really need as harsh, comprehensive audit. DOL has been throwing money at this problem for years. It doesn’t seem to be working.

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