Eating Halloween candy isn't the guiltless childhood pleasure it once was. Did you know the chocolate industry supports the child slave trade in Africa? Although the major chocolate companies have been pushing off their pledge to change this practice, there is a way you can help spread the word about this important issue.Grist spoke with a chocolate products coordinator at the fair trade co-op Equal Exchange, who gave some background on the connection between chocolate and the child slave trade. According to the U.S. State Department, over 100,000 children work on cocoa farms on the Ivory Coast, which supply about half the chocolate eaten in the U.S. A 2001 investigation revealed children as young as nine doing the difficult work of harvesting cocoa beans, in exchange for "beatings, inadequate meals, and little or no pay in return."
Although major chocolate companies like Hershey's and Cadbury signed a protocol to create a certification system that would end the industry's reliance on child labor by 2005, the companies keep pushing back the deadline, while at the same time trying to dilute the protocol's goals.
So what is a concerned consumer to do with this depressing news on one of the biggest chocolate-eating holidays of the year? A widespread chocolate boycott could actually worsen conditions for child laborers, so Equal Exchange and the human rights group Global Exchange suggest spreading the word through "reverse trick-or-treating." When trick-or-treaters receive a piece of candy, they give along with their thank-yous a piece of fair-trade chocolate, spreading the word through "a simple public awareness campaign with added power because the message comes from children whose peers on the other side of the world are enduring a real-life hardship."
Visit the campaign's website to download free printable flyers, which can be handed out with the chocolate or passed out on their own, if fair-trade chocolate is out of your price range. As public awareness grows, the chocolate companies could be pressured into ensuring our Halloween treats are made for children, not by them.
• Read the article: Scare trade: Halloween candy you can feel good about at Grist
• Check out the campaign: Reverse Trick-or-Treating at Global Exchange
Did you know about this issue? Does it change how you feel about chocolate?
Related: Behind the Scenes With Taza: How Chocolate is Made
(Image: Flickr member Magic Madzik licensed under Creative Commons)