Stepping out of Ignorance... Chocolate

In our family we love "chochi" bars (chocolate bars). What's not to love? Normally when we get around to this time of year I am doing all I can from to resist the temptation of buying a box of 90 mini chocolate bars and eating them within the span of a week.

This year though my eyes have been opened to some truth that has completely changed how I view these sweet indulgences.

A few weeks ago I came across a blog post by Rage Against the Mini Van that took a look at the forced child and child slave labour used to harvest the majority of cocoa used by all major producers of chocolate. The author wrote clearly and obviously researched much and I urge you to read it here as well.

BBC produced a expose on the working conditions and the trafficking of children to work as slaves in the cocoa industry in Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

The first 2 minutes brought me to tears. Thousands of children being stolen from their families in Burkina Faso and smuggled into Ghana and the Ivory Coast. They are forced to work harvesting cocoa all day in terrible conditions with no pay. Their pay goes to the trader who brought them into the work force.

They spoke with mothers in Burkina Faso. In one village every woman there had lost a child to slave trafficking. Every. Single. Mother. Six year olds stolen, abused and forced to work. Their mothers lay awake at night and wonder where they are, if they have anything to eat, if they'll ever see them again.

As a mom this kills me. My kids are safely tucked away sleeping with full bellies. They will wake up in the morning and run around their warm house playing with their new Mater and McQueen and sit down to a hot breakfast. They will laugh and play and be cuddled all day. They will be affirmed, encouraged and told they are loved more times than they can count.

This other child though and 1.8 million (yes that says million) will have none of those things. He will wake up from some earthen floor and be forced to climb trees and harvest cocoa in the highest of temperatures with a dangerous machete. He will have little to eat, no words of affirmation and no cuddles from a mother he may never see again.

In light of this how can I look the other way and continue to satisfy my cravings for chocolate at the expense of these little children. How can I feed my children the Reese Peanut Butter cups they love so much knowing that another child was stolen from his mother so my kid could have this chocolate cheaper? I can't. I just can't.

If these children were harvesting the cocoa a block from me where I could see them every day would I even hesitate to pay more for a fair trade chocolate bar knowing that it would better their conditions, that it might force companies to deal ethically? Not a chance - I wouldn't hesitate a second. What does it matter then if they are thousands of miles away?

Rage Against the Minivan does a great job laying out a lot of the details of which companies are doing what. I'll give you a condensed version here:

What companies use cocoa sourced from slave labour?

So... that's pretty much all of the big ones. You can find a more comprehensive list here.

How do I buy chocolate that isn't sourced using slave labour?

The best way to do that is to buy chocolate that is certified fair trade. Most certified organic chocolate also must be fair trade and so that is another way.

Here is a list of fair trade chocolate producers.

In a small city is hard to find these smaller companies' chocolate and so what I have found so far is that Cadbury's Dairy Milk bar is certified Fair Trade. One bar out of their entire company but I guess it's a start.

By the end of the year Hershey will source all Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa for their Bliss line.
I didn't see a certification on it yet.

What about Halloween?

Halloween is a great time to take a stand against this industry by not purchasing any chocolate to hand out to trick or treaters that is not fair trade.

You could source out fair trade chocolate or as we're doing we're just staying away from chocolate all together.

As my husband and I have discussed and prayed about this we've decided that as a family we need to commit to being ethical in our purchases. We've stopped buying chocolate that isn't fair trade. Next, we're trying to source baking cocoa that is fair trade as well so that we can figure out things like brownie mixes and chocolate syrup for milk.

We will try teach our kids why we don't purchase Reese peanut butter cups anymore and I pray they grow up knowing that their choices affect others and that we need to do what we can to be a voice for those who have no voice.


  1. Hi Monique,

    Thanks for highlighting the importance of consumer choice in tackling child labor in the cocoa industry. Small actions lead to big change, and consumers can help combat child labor, support cocoa farming communities and conserve the environment through their choice of chocolate.

    You referenced FT certification as a way to ensure you are not supporting child labor. The Rainforest Alliance also takes a strong stance against child labor and is proactive in its efforts to help combat it, through (a) including detailed references to labor conditions and employment of children in our sustainability standards; (b) educating and training farmers; and (c) monitoring labor practices on farms through certification audits and studies.

    Earlier this year the website “Stop the Traffik” endorsed the Rainforest Alliance, in addition to FT, as defenses against child labor:

    Conscientious consumers can find a full list of chocolates made with Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa via the link:



    1. Thank you so much for your input Anna! This is all a bit new to our family and so all info on buying ethically is much appreciated! I've had a great response from readers and will being an update soon with all of input I've received.

  2. OMG, I had absolutely no idea this was happening. Thank you for opening my eyes. I'm going to stop buying "big company" chocolate and search out fair trade. I will also do some more investigation on this sad and outrageous situation.


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