Lexington Food Justice Podcast#4

Chocolate's Dirty, Dark Secret

Dark chocolate is one of my all time fave sweet treats. Not many indulgences are more enjoyable to me than a beautiful bottle of red wine and a richly divine, complex dark chocolate.

But back in February, while Tim & I went through another 21 Day Sugar Detox, dark chocolate was a "NO Food". So after we finished detoxing, the very first food we reintroduced into our lives was dark chocolate. I decided to write an article about dark chocolate. And as I researched for topic ideas, I stumbled on this dark secret:

More than 70% of the world's cocoa grown in West Africa where 2.3 million children work in the cocoa fields. Harvesting is dangerous and physically taxing work. And these children are vulnerable to brutal labor practices, including trafficking and slavery.

In the early 2000's the big chocolate makers agreed to eradicate child labor by July, 2005. The deadline was pushed to 2008, then 2010. Now the target date is 2020.

Really?? It's been 12 years since Big Chocolate was to make good on their promise!!! The US candy industry is a $70 billion business. So why is it taking so long?? Maybe we (the consumers) need to start making a statement by #VotingWithYourDollars and continuing to do so until the use of child slavery is eradicated!

And let's be clear -- we're not just talking about chocolate bars. Any product that contains chocolate or cocoa as an ingredient is tainted with child slavery, unless otherwise labeled with legitimate fair trade stamps OR independently verified through a direct trade relationship.

So that delicious chocolate ice cream or dessert that you so desire. Chocolate-flavored cereal, milk, sauce, etc. Better ask questions or "google" the source of the cocoa if you want to avoid supporting child slavery. Yeah -- hate to be a buzz-kill on your fun and enjoyment. But I'm the messenger. The real culprit is the $70 Billion industry that has been delaying, delaying, and delaying the eradication of these practices.

Slavery is a repulsive practice and should be repugnant to everyone's values. It certainly is to mine. Now I typically buy Fair Trade brands of consumer products -- food especially. But after learning this dirty, dark secret, buying Fair Trade chocolate has even deeper and more urgent meaning to me.

What is Fair Trade?

Fair trade is a system of trade based on direct relationships & partnerships between buyers & producing communities. Communities that are typically within developing countries, small scale producers who are at the bottom of economic ladder and often marginalized.

Commodities like cocoa and coffee are subject to dramatic fluctuations in global prices. Many farmers own small-scale farms and located in isolated areas. So they don’t know the global marketplace or prices. This leaves them vulnerable to exploitative middle-merchants to whom the farmers sell their products.

And when farmers are in crisis, they are forced to maximize production, regardless of what these methods do to the environment.

Fair Trade principles and practices help to ensure farmers (1) receive a fair price for their products (2) have direct involvement in marketplace and (3) uphold environmental standards and labor rights.

Listen to our Podcast!

So with this week's Lexington Food Justice Radio Program, we hosted Zach Joseph, Alex Canada and Joseph Will from Magic Beans Coffee, A Cup of Commonwealth, and Chocolate Holler to discuss the corporate practice of ethically sourcing fair trade and direct trade coffee and chocolates.

Learn More

Check out these links to learn more and understand what you can do to make an impact:

  • "Big Chocolate Child Labor", by Brian O'Keefe, Fortune.com, March 1, 2016 is an article that provides a comprehensive examination of the use of child slavery in the harvesting of cocoa farms in West Africa. The article also discusses that while Big Chocolate has spent millions in programs to remediate the cocoa harvesting industry, increasing global demand requires more drastic and urgent change to achieve major progress.
  • Slave Free Chocolate is a website dedicated to bringing awareness to the worst forms of child labor, including the use of child slavery in the cocoa farms of West Africa. Through campaigns, speaking engagements and helping other groups develop their own campaigns, the organization is a leading authority on this subject.
  • The website also provides a list of brands that use ethically sourced cocoa, along with a list of legitimate Fair Trade labels to help identify which chocolate is connected to child slavery 👉🏽 Directory of Slave Free Chocolate.
  • You can watch "The Dark Side of Chocolate", a journalistic documentary by Miki Mastrati and  U. Roberto Romano that reveals the hideous truth behind the manufacturing of chocolate. There are also links to other compelling videos about the chocolate industry.
  • Green America is a national non-profit focused on providing economic strategies that will mobilize and empower people to take personal and collective action on issues of social justice and environmental responsibility. This is a great resource to learn more about Fair Trade practices and protocols, in general, and as these relate to the chocolate and coffee industries.
  • Tulane University published a study in July, 2015: 2013/14 Survey Research on Child Labor in the West African Cocoa Sector on which many of these websites and articles rely for the information about the state of the industry regarding child labor.
  • The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center developed the only 100% organic and shade-grown coffee certification know as "Bird-friendly".

Chocolate & Coffee from the Podcast

Here are links to the brands of chocolate and coffee mentioned in our podcast:

  • Askinosie Chocolate (Direct trade chocolate brands)
  • Stumptown Coffee Roasters (Suppliers of direct trade, organic coffees)
  • "Bean to Bar" (Recent trend for boutique chocolate companies that take pride in being "Bean to Bar" for ethical and culinary reasons. These chocolate makers start with the whole cocoa beans that they roast, grind and smoothen to make chocolate from scratch!)
  • Dandelion Chocolate ("Bean to Bar" chocolate factory in San Francisco utilizing direct trade relationships to source its cocoa and sugar)
  • Maverick Chocolate ("Bean to Bar chocolate factory in Cincinnati)

Looking Forward to Our Next Show!

Thanks again to our guests!! And please tune in to our next show on June 9th, 10 - 11 am, 93.9 FM WLXU Lexington Community Radio. Our guests will be Caleb Buddemeyer (Embrace Church) & Jonathan Henderson (Produce Manager at Lucky’s Market) talking about the impact of public/private partnerships on Food Security.