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Traffick Free Chocolate- Do You Support Child Labor?

Updated on February 27, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

Unwrapping a Hershey Bar and taking that first bite is one of life's little pleasures for me, always has been.I have had a passion for chocolate since I was small, inherited from my father and his compete addiction to all things chocolate. As I grew up I tried various sorts and kinds of chocolate and loved them all, in all of their many facets and forms from cocoa to the Godiva Chocolate my husband sometimes brings home for me.

So can you imagine my horror the first time that I heard rumors of child slavery in Cote D'Ivoire where a majority, nearly 43%, of the world's cocoa farms are located. And my horror grew as I learned that there were literally thousands of children working long 12-15 hour days, most of them under the age of 12.

The back of a child laborer on a cocoa farm, where beatings are often a daily part of life
The back of a child laborer on a cocoa farm, where beatings are often a daily part of life

Harsh Living Conditions

These children are literally slaves kept in the harshest of conditions.They are beaten, lockedt in small huts, and fed little, often existing on a diet of bananas and the cocoa beans they sometimes steal. This would be bad enough if the numbers were small, maybe in the hundreds but the truth is these children, these modern slaves number at least 12,000! Because of the nature of the issue the number of children held as slaves and working on cocoa farms could be much more than that, some groups estimate as many as 200,000. According to Stop The Traffik one person is trafficked across a border every minute.

As I write this my children are sleeping soundly in their beds. They are well fed, loved and clothed. Their emotional needs are met. Their physical needs are met. I look at their sleeping faces and I can't imagine them dirty, hungry and unloved in an environment of harshness and hopelessness.

Where do these children come from? Some are kidnapped and sold. Others are sold into slavery by desperatly poor parents. In the long run it doesn't matter how they got here, they have almost no chance of ever seeing their parents again, and they will work 80 to 100 hour weeks . The packs that they carry are often bigger that they are and create raw, open wounds on the children's shoulders. Medical care is nearly nonexistant.

You can find more information at
You can find more information at

Changing the World One Choice at a Time

One person can't change the world. There are so many needs that it is overwhelming. But we can change the things little by little by the choices we make everyday. Not buying chocolate from companies that buy from these farms will force them to rethink their policies as their profits drop. In the United States it is estimated that we pay over 13 billion dollars a year on our chocolate habit. Where we spend this money can have a powerful impact on child slavery and human trafficking in the chocolate industry.

The large U.S. Chocolate companies are acknowledging that there is a problem but also state that they can't do much about it since they don't own the plantations. Some companies are trying to put various trade agreements and sanctions in place to stop it. In 2001 the Chocolate Manufacturer's Association put together the Harkin-Engle Protocol which calls for the development of industry wide labor standards and voluntary certification, reporting and individual monitoring. The Protocol also implements an industry funded foundation to create and oversee programs related to this issue. The deadline was July 2005 and as of this writing there has not been much improvement. The huge chocolate industry is dominated by Hershey's and M&M Mars both whom get their cocoa from Ivory Coast farms. But they are not alone. The list of companies involved reads like a who's who among chocolate;

  • Cadbury's
  • Ben and Jerry's ( I was SHOCKED at this one!)
  • Godiva
  • Kraft
  • Nestle
  • See's
  • Toblerone
  • Guittard

And it goes on. If these companies took initiative to change their policies others would follow. The more we let our preference for fair trade chocolate to be known, the more impact we will have on the large companies to change their policies.

But where can you get these products?

Where to Find Fair Trade Chocolate

Well it is getting easier every day to fnd Fair Trade Chocolate. Some of the retailers that are stocking the chocolate are :

  • Dunkin Donuts
  • Fred Meyer
  • H E B
  • Wild Oats
  • Whole Foods
  • Starbucks
  • Safeway (includes Tom Thumb)
  • Target
  • Trader Joe's

The Trans-Fair Company is the third party certifier of Fair Trade chocolate in the United States. By buying products with their logo you insure that the product was created without the use of forced child labor. It is estimated that only about 1% of the chocolate sales world wide are Fair Trade. What if that number began to steadily climb to 10%, 25% 50%? Of course companies would scramble to change their policies and practices to comply with Fair Trade standards. Organic cocoa is not produced in this area so it can be considered Fair Trade.

Next time you bite into that chocolate bar ask yourself if it was worth it. Chocolate tainted by the blood of children is not a delicacy, it is a travesty. How long did it take you to read this? How many people were trafficked at the rate of one per minute? Sobering, isn't it?


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    • profile image

      moriah 6 years ago

      i am going to end this.

    • profile image

      Amanda 6 years ago

      Maybe this is why the last time I bought a pint of Ben and Jerry's it had a disclaimer on there that the cocoa used in the icecream was fair trade but they were still trying to change where the cocoa came from that was in their brownie bits (I guess those were made by someone else)

    • profile image

      summer 6 years ago

      good facts

    • profile image

      Zachary McKinon 6 years ago

      This is just unbelivible

    • profile image

      Taha Rajkotwala 6 years ago

      It was not appropriate to my question as i wanted something else. But else it was ok. It took me a lot of time to read!

      Lots of information are here

    • profile image

      Autumn 6 years ago

      Dear Marye,

      I have used this page as a source for a persuasive essay I am writing in Language Arts. Also being shocked at the apparent fact that Ben&Jerry's is not fairtrade. I had a can of their ice cream at my house, and it did indeed have the fairtrade symbol on it. I do not mean to offend you, but you are incorrect on that count. So sorry if I sound obnoxious.

    • profile image

      Un-fair 6 years ago

      Most of Mars chocolates hardly have any cocoa in them anyway. It is loaded with synthetic flavours. On the other hand Godiva charges a bomb for their chocolates and yet hardly any of the profits they make ever goes to the farmers and the children. The only way to stop is for people to be more aware of their choices and simply stop purchasing such products.

    • profile image

      Fifa 6 years ago

      Yes many chocolates and coffees these days involve child labor wait no not labor slavery. I am proud to say Ben and Jerrys is now working to become entirely fair trade and so far about half of their flavors are fair trade. if you aren't sure which ones there should be a black and white symbol of a person on the carton. Many chocolate companies are now fair trade though, including Green & Blacks (Try the toffee milk chocolate flavor) and Divine chocolate.

      For others reading this if you love dolphins watch the cove, go to their website, and go to The sluaghtering of dolphins in japan is horrid and you can find out how to help these brilliant animals. Then what they do with this meat is sell it as "High Quality Whale Meat" and it's so full of mercury that people that tend to eat it everyday will get mercury poisoning because it's cant be digested and is so unhealthy for your body. To prevent this be careful of what you buy.

    • profile image

      Mary 7 years ago

      I wish we all could whip in their Indiana Jone's style. I want to scoop those kids up and find homes for them. This is heavy on my heart. I think I may puke every time I look at chocolate.

    • profile image

      Tara Cardle 7 years ago

      I hate slavery!!!!!

    • profile image

      techyfox 7 years ago

      Having just watched a documentary about this

      I started googling around to find ways of buying chocolate that is 100% free of any child labour. So far it looks like fairtrade is the best way to buy it but is it really 100% certain that faitrade always means no children were involved in the production?

      I read a lot about the problems of fairtrade and coffee that really left me wondering who it is really best to buy from.

    • profile image

      Peace shopping 7 years ago

      It's a real pleasure that I could read through this article and now I have a proper knowledge about daily products that I usually buy without any consideration. Thank you so much!

    • profile image

      cindy 7 years ago

      i only heard about child slavery in chocolate industries a few weeks ago.. im not a big chocolate eater but plenty of people i know are. thanks for this information and will spread the word

    • profile image

      fern 7 years ago

      wait. where did this info come from?

    • profile image

      fern 7 years ago

      i am doing a speech for school and this is my topic. thanks!

      p.s. this is disgusting, what they're doing.:(

    • profile image

      gdfgfd 8 years ago

      wow!! i can't believe it so sad.

    • salt profile image

      salt 8 years ago from australia

      I beg to differ on one point, one person can change the world. You made one small but fantastic contribution via this hub. I had picked up literature regarding this topic, but had not had time to read it, now I have through you. I know now to look for particular chocolate and to send an email to each company that I can identify as using cocoa beans from the slave labour of children. I know to ask what aid organisations are there and what can they do... you see, your voice has helped many. Thankyou!

    • profile image

      Beverly 8 years ago

      Thank you for the article, have you any concrete evidence that these well known companies buy their chocolate beans from Child Slavery Farms! It is easy to throw a name out there but what actual evidence do you have? It is difficult to track where companies actually buy their cocoa beans from. Can you tell me how you came about this information?

      Thank you for your time.

    • Pardon Me profile image

      Pardon Me 8 years ago

      It is unbelievable how little we know about the products we buy everyday. I invite you to view the National Labor Committee's YouTube channel for more shocking video's

    • profile image

      Debbie151 8 years ago

      This is horrendous. Although pressure is being put on these companies and Cadburys have now agreed to launch dairymilk as fairtrade this summer, so hopefully others will follow. Updates at:

    • profile image

      Peter 9 years ago

      Thanks for writing this. I'm going to stick to fair trade chocolate from now on.

    • profile image

      Sara Moon 9 years ago

      I'm sick to my stomach! Ive been selling chocolate fudge for a living. I'll continue, but only with fair trade ingredients. I thank you and will spread the word.

    • 397268 profile image

      397268 9 years ago

      Fairtrade chocolate along with many other Fairtrade prodults are available all over Ireland, and have been for over 10 years. It's far better than Hershey, which is just awful. Made with sour milk I believe.

    • profile image

      eva 9 years ago

      I would like to use your artikel for a campaigne at my school.

      Can i do it?

    • profile image

      gabrielle coleman 9 years ago

      How can this be? Would it be possible to film some of these acts and put them across the net as well as tv? a picture is worth so very much. It's sobering. Can You imagine a picture of a broken child working in this wretched environment right beside a gold and white Godiva ad for all to see.

    • Marye Audet profile image

      Marye Audet 9 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      N- Starbucks has some fair trade items. They do have fair trade chocolates available in some areas. They are not a totally clean company, however.

    • profile image

      N. 9 years ago

      Thanks so much for this quick info.

      But one thing, Starbucks? Last I heard the coffee beans of it dont come from necessarily 'clean' labour.

    • profile image

      Melissa 9 years ago

      Thanks for the information. I feel so guilty eating all that chocolate and not knowing about child labor. In the future, I will only buy Fair Trade chocolate and never eat those other chocolate products again!

    • jackiepanda profile image

      jackiepanda 10 years ago from Ocean Beach, CA

      This is excellent information! I am a small business owner who sells only Fair Trade Made products. I totally agree with the sentiment that even with small changes, we CAN all make a difference. Thank you for getting this info out there!

    • sisterkate profile image

      sisterkate 10 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Thanks so much for this expressive and compelling article. So few people are aware that slavery continues to exist in the 21st century. Whether held for slave labor in chocolate or coffee plantations, brothels or sweatshops, slaves exist today. And we as consumers can either remain ignorant and contribute to their enslavement or we can shout out, refusing to support it. Thanks for your article, Marye.

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      whoisanand 10 years ago

      UN.GIFT (United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking) website aims to be an extension of UN GIFT activities worldwide. We would like it to evolve into a vibrant online community where people exchange views, showcase their work, talk about their experiences to strengthen the fight against human trafficking. With your help we can make it a valuable resource to take this fight forward. Organized crime of human trafficking needs a fitting organized response.

    • Marye Audet profile image

      Marye Audet 10 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Thanks Bob.

    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 10 years ago from New Brunswick

      We buy fair trade chocolate, tea and coffee locally. More people need this information, good work.

    • Marye Audet profile image

      Marye Audet 10 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      It is sad and frustrating isn't it?

    • gabriella05 profile image

      gabriella05 10 years ago from Oldham

      I don't eat chocolate but still I didn't know children's where used in creating it I am disgusted that in 2007 they still using child slavery

      Thank you for the information

    • Guru-C profile image

      Cory Zacharia 10 years ago

      I had no idea. Thank you for this important information.

    • Paraglider profile image

      Dave McClure 10 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

      OXFAM charity outlets (in the UK) carry a wide range of Fair Trade chocolate and coffee products, including some organic ones.

    • cgull8m profile image

      cgull8m 10 years ago from North Carolina

      Great post, I am glad you pointed to this to us, we will look for Traffik Free Chocolates. It is disgusting what they are doing ruining the children's future for profits.

    • John D Lee profile image

      John D Lee 10 years ago

      Thanks Marye, I didn't know that about chocolate.