Chocolate: An Ethical Shopping Guide

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Here’s the truth. Today’s post was supposed to be a recipe for using up Halloween candy, particularly those mini chocolate bars we all love so much. Then, an article popped up in my newsfeed. Hershey’s, Mars, and Nestle were in the news again for accusations of child labor in their chocolate supply chain.

I’ve heard and even written about these practices in the past, but to be painfully honest, I conveniently “forgot” about it and assumed things were getting better. When I saw the mixed bag of Halloween candy bars on sale at the store, I picked it up without a second thought. Then I read the latest articles, and a pit formed in the bottom of my stomach. I couldn’t bring myself to share a candy treat with you knowing that a child probably worked under horrible conditions to allow me to make it. Children’s lives matter so much more than my cravings or cookie recipes.

So instead of sharing a recipe today, I want to talk about why child labor is still a huge problem and share some resources for finding and buying ethical chocolate.

Fair Trade Chocolate Guide picture

Since I’ve written about this before (read this post on Fair Trade chocolate chips if you haven’t already), I’ll keep this part short. While the facts about child labor in some of the world’s major chocolate suppliers have been exposed since 2001, very little has been done to stop it. After the documentary, Slavery: A Global Investigation came out, Congress attempted to draft legislation which would introduce “slave free” labeling on chocolate. The bill passed the house and was on its way to the Senate when the major chocolate companies stepped in, promising to self regulate the issue and eliminate child slavery by 2005.

10 years later, with a fresh lawsuit on their plates, the chocolate companies are rushing to defend themselves. You can read their responses in this article, but here’s the gist: They believe slavery is abhorrent, they’re committed to change, and they’re working to end child labor in the chocolate industry by 2020.

Sounds great, right? But here’s the thing: This is what they said back in 2001. We’ve given them nearly 15 years, and what has changed? Nothing. In fact, there are now more child slaves than there were in 2001, an astonishing 1.4 million. So, instead of giving the major chocolate companies another 10 years to do nothing, I suggest we put our money behind companies who care about their products and the workers behind them.

Shopping for ethically produced chocolate can be a bit confusing, but here are some labels you can look for.

logo-FFL-lo-res rainforestalliancelogo fair_trade_federation_logofairtradelogo

In addition, because of the strict regulations and oversight required, organic labeled products are usually a safe bet. For artisan chocolate companies, you can also look for the label “Bean to Bar” which signifies the company is directly partnered with the farms and have control over the entire process. Here’s how it might look on the packages:

Trying to switch to ethical chocolate? Here are the labels to look for!

Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and World Market all offer a good selection of specialty chocolate bars that are fair trade, organic, or bean to bar. If you’re looking for chocolate chips, check out Sunspire (their Sundrops are better than M&Ms!), Equal Exchange, or, my personal favorite, CostCo’s Kirkland brand, which are actually cheaper than the major competitors! You can also check out the Natural Candy Store online to find chocolate treats great for Halloween candy or stocking stuffers.

Reading labels does take commitment, and buying ethical chocolate is usually slightly more expensive, but let’s get real, this is hardly a punishment. Some of the very best chocolate I’ve had is ethically sourced. Lucky for you, I sacrificed an afternoon (and my calorie intake for the day) and tried a few so I could report back. Here are a few of my favorites, all purchased at World Market.

Here are a few of the many wonderful fair trade and ethically sourced chocolate bars you can buy in stores!

There is such a HUGE variety out there, I had trouble narrowing it down to a few, but I’m a sucker for anything sweet and salty. As you can imagine, I went nuts over chuao’s pretzel toffee twirl, which has full pretzels embedded in the chocolate. Don’t even get me started on Bissinger’s Banana Pecan Caramel. I wasn’t sure I would like this combination of milk chocolate, banana caramel, and chopped pecans but my LANDS, it was positively fabulous. And how cool is that Women Cocoa Farmers Hear Our Voice logo on the Divine chocolates? If you visit the Divine website, you can read more about their efforts to empower women cocoa farmers.

With amazing options like this available, I have no excuse to not buy chocolate from ethical sources. Really, this is a food blogger’s dream. Amazing chocolate that also supports and empowers farmers in third world countries? I am SO in.

There are many more brands of ethically sourced chocolate available in grocery stores and online.For a full list, check out Slave Free Chocolate and the Food Empowerment Project. Next time you’re out and about, grab a bar and give it a try. And if you already have a favorite brand or place to buy ethical chocolate, please share it in the comments! The more knowledge we can pass along the better.


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