13 November 2013

cocoa breaking my heart!

I love candy. Chocolate, specifically. I'm embarrassed at how child-like I am when any form of chocolate is present in the room. I remind myself a lot of Jerry Seinfeld's bit on how kids feel about candy:

That's why I was completely devastated when I watched this short documentary, produced by the BBC in 2010. Called "The Bitter Truth," it tells the story of where cocoa beans are produced and how they are harvested. Sounds straightforward, right? The unfortunate reality is always more complicated.

As with so many industries, we are finding that child labor is still incredibly relevant in today's world, particularly in the harvesting and manufacturing of cocoa beans. What's discouraging is that as early as 2001, important people in the United States, including Congresspeople, were aware of this issue. As they demonstrate in the documentary, the Harkin-Engel Protocol called for an end to the worst forms of child labor associated with the production of chocolate in the United States. Eight major chocolate companies signed it, including M&M/Mars, Nestle USA, and Hershey's Chocolate.

not okay, people.

Since the document was signed twelve years ago, what has been accomplished? Well, as many can guess, when business and government are involved, not too much. Companies, like Nestle USA and Hershey's, are only now beginning to get on the "public relations bandwagon," by formally stating their commitment to ridding their industry of child labor. After a lawsuit was filed against Hershey's and Whole Foods announced the removal of Hershey's Chocolate from its shelves in late 2012, Hershey's announced a program dedicated to ending child labor in its supply chain.

it may taste good, but whole foods still pulled it.

But why now? Didn't Hershey's already dedicate itself to this idea when it signed the protocol twelve full years ago?

And although Nestle USA submitted itself for an evaluation by the Fair Labor Association, a move which seemed to indicate growing transparency, the International Labor Rights Fund continues to list it as one of the top fourteen worst companies in the world related to labor abuses.


yeah, it hurts!

"But what can I do?" you're wondering. "I love Reese's and I'm shocked and appalled to hear my favorite candy implicated in this!" Me too, my friend, me too.

1. You can contact Hershey's (or any other chocolate company producing your favorite candy) and let them know your thoughts. If you let them know your bottom line (a.k.a. I want to eat your candy but also want to go to Heaven, where I believe people go if they care about issues regarding child slave labor), they can't keep ignoring the issue.

2. You can sign onto petitions of various flavors (no pun intended), focused on an end to child slave labor. Basically, putting your name on these documents says, "Hey, I'm not cool with people suffering at the hands of my Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, cardigan (a.k.a. party cardy) from Gap, yummy coffee from El Salvador, etc."

pretty please!

3. Probably, most importantly, you can take action with how you spend your dolla dolla bills. You can stick it to the man. You can buy chocolate that is fair trade certified.

"Oh, hey, wait a minute!" I can hear you saying. "You just got all political on me with your fair-tradey-ness! And how do we know fair trade is any better in the first place?"

oh yes, i did.

Touché, smart readers! Much to my dismay, I'm not God (darn!), so I can't vouch for the fact that each piece of fair trade chocolate isn't touched by some poor child in West Africa. Nobody can. But we know that fair trade is probably the best option we have when it comes to ridding the chocolate industry of young children, who should be thinking! And learning! And having fun! And not using a machete to get out cocoa beans that will go into my delicious Reese's Peanut Butter Cup!

look for the label!

Fair trade certifications include investigators, reports, and audits to ensure that child labor is not in any way, shape, or form a part of the cocoa production process. Does it work all of the time? Absolutely not. But is it better than no certification at all? In my book, it is. But everyone has to make that decision for themselves.

If you have an hour, I invite you to watch "The Bitter Truth." I think we all know what's most important here: that we find a way, somehow, for me to eat my Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in such a way that my stomach, heart, and soul can be happy.

but only when there's no child labor involved!

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