Author: Luisa Perkins
•7:18 AM
I'm really not kidding. I won't be offended if you leave right now and move to the next blog on your "Favorites" list. You may be really, really sorry if you continue reading. Kids under 18, I really want you to go away now; I don't want your parents harassing me later.

Still here? Okay. But I warned you. Don't give me any grief in a comment once you're done here.

According to my Scavenger Hunt spreadsheet, Pezmama gets a rest for a while starting tomorrow. Today, though, her burning question is this: why have both an Almond Joy and a Mounds candy bar? Why not combine the two?

It's something I have often wondered myself. I've come to the conclusion that there are some people who have strong preferences regarding dark and milk chocolate. The decision to have the almond paired with the milk chocolate version seems to somewhat arbitrary, but no doubt the Peter Paul company did some sort of market research into the situation.

I enjoy both milk and dark chocolate, so I find both delicious. If he hasn't heeded my warning and is still reading, poor Patrick is now shuddering. He loathes and despises coconut, but I LOVE it. I prefer Almond Joy to Mounds, since the almond adds that toasty, nutty crunch to the experience, but I have never had a problem eating a Mounds if that's all there was left in the Halloween bag.

Until now.

I don't know if I'll ever eat an Almond Joy again. Or a Snickers or MnMs or a genuine Toll House cookie. I recently read some shocking news on Bitsy Parker's excellent blog (links will come when I get home). Hoping what she'd written wasn't true, I did a bunch of independent research, and I can now confirm her report.

Have you ever wondered why chocolate is so cheap? Why you can dash into a 7-11 and buy a chunk of cocoa-filled goodness for less than a dollar? Maybe you haven't; maybe you've just taken inexpensive deliciousness for granted as a basic human right.

But speaking of human rights, it turns out that virtually all mainstream chocolate--that produced by the Big Four: Mars, Inc., The Hershey Company, Cadbury Schweppes, and Nestle--is made at least in part with cocoa beans grown, harvested, and processed by slaves in West Africa. A little more research revealed that my beloved See's is also a buyer of slave-produced cocoa.

Worse, many of the slaves are children, children who have been sold by their parents to the plantation owners for a few dollars. Or they've been lured off the streets with promises of bicycles and high wages, but once they reach the cacao farms, these children are horribly abused and malnourished and live short, horrifying lives of backbreaking work and despair.

Reports by UNICEF and the International Labor Organization confirm this. The BBC did a documentary on the problem in 2000, and the next year The Philadelphia Inquirer put out a series of articles on the horrors of slave chocolate as well.

After some limited public outcry, the Big Four agreed to a four-year plan called the Harkin-Elgin Protocol to eliminate child slave labor from the cacao industry. But according to many human rights groups, that deadline has come and gone, with the big chocolate doing little, if anything, to keep their agreements. Crocodile tears have been shed, but not much has changed.

What are we chocolate lovers to do? The only way to be sure that your chocolate hasn't come to you at the expense of slave labor is to make sure it says "Fair Trade" on the packaging. Fair Trade cocoa has been produced by workers paid a living wage and who are housed decently.

Believe me: I know this news is depressing. When I first read about it, I wanted my ignorance back, because knowledge brings accountability. It's tempting to make a disconnect, to try and forget about the tragic reality so that I can satisfy my base desire for sensual gratification in the form of an Almond Joy.

Then I think about the cotton plantation owners in this country 150 years ago, living with the evils of slavery but unwilling to make changes to their lifestyles because they didn't want to sacrifice their comfortable way of life. We look back at those slaveowners with horror and disgust, but are we any better when we support the slave industry one step removed? In a way, it's worse to be the disconnected consumer, because we then add hypocrisy to our list of sins in the matter. Most of us would never beat a child or force him to sleep on a wooden plank in a padlocked shack with a tin can for a urinal. But how many of us will continue to turn a blind eye when a craving hits us?

Again, l'll post all the links to the reports I've read once I'm home. Until then, do an internet search of your own, if you feel up to further shock. It's not pretty, and you may never be able to look an MnM in the eye again--at least not until drastic change comes to the chocolate industry. Which will not happen until you and I stand up and vote with our dollars.
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23 comments:

On 4/11/07 , Thalia's Child said...

ACK!


Well, that gives me further motivation to drink a glass of milk when I'm craving the yummy goodness of chocolate. Dangit!

 
On 4/11/07 , NH Knitting Mama said...

And seeing it's 5 days past Halloween, I now feel even more guilty eating all the crap in my cabinet. Think it will need to go directly to the trash now. I knew there were many reasons not to eat the stuff, but this tops it off. Thanks for the information.

 
On 4/11/07 , Jen of A2eatwrite said...

What an important post. Thanks for the eye opener.

 
On 4/11/07 , meleah rebeccah said...

Child slavery is one of the most disgusting problems in this world.

For the FIRST time in my life I am HAPPY to be allergic to chocolate.

Those corporate dickwads will never get a chocolate based penny from me.

Ugh. How awful.

 
On 4/11/07 , Annette Lyon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
On 4/11/07 , Alice said...

Yes, it is sad isn't it? Melissa told me that at piano lessons, and I was heartbroken. (I still prefer Almond Joys over Mounds.)

 
On 4/11/07 , Melissa said...

I would have preferred to remain in ignorance, but now that I know, how can I not do something about it? I've spent the last few days sending e-mails and letters to anyone who might have any power at all. And I discovered that Divine Chocolate in the Baker's Catalogue is fair trade chocolate (happy day!). Also that Ghirardelli chocolate comes from Central America and Ghana. Still waiting for specifics from them. It's all very inconvenient, but how can you not do anything, just because it's on a different continent and far away?

 
On 4/11/07 , Melissa said...

And I realized last week that, although I love almonds, coconut, and chocolate, I like neither Almond Joy nor Mounds. Go figure.

 
On 4/11/07 , painted maypole said...

wow. um. thanks for bringing this to my attention. i think.

the problem is SO much of what we buy is the same way. The clothes from Gap? many are made by people who were lured with the promise of getting them to America, instead they were taken to some island that is owned my America, but doesn't have the same rules and regulations, and basically kept there as slaves. So even if it says made in America it can be made by slaves.

as if your day wasn't ruined enough already, huh?

 
On 4/11/07 , Sirdar said...

Ah crap...I read it. I know you warned us, but I read it anyway. You just had to make me feel guilty for eating my Coffee Crisp.

Serious issue no doubt. And I am with Patrick...Coconut is evil. I hear it is harvested by baby monkeys who's only reward is a peanut.

 
On 4/11/07 , Luisa Perkins said...

Thanks to all for your thoughtful comments. I have read different reports, some of which put the percentage of slave-produced chocolate as high as 65% of the total purchased by mainstream chocolate producers. It's an ugly problem with no easy answers.

 
On 4/11/07 , dawn said...

Well, I have such a hard time heeding warning, and now I know. An excellent post opening the eyes of the public. I love coconut, so if I want something all to myself, I just make it or buy it with coconut.

 
On 4/11/07 , Adriana Velez said...

Bravo! I'm glad you posted on this.

I'm a big fan of fair-trade chocolate Green & Black's.

 
On 4/11/07 , Kimberly said...

First of all, I love you both despite this post and because of it. Definitely want to know more about this. In fact, I'm thinking that with the power of the bloggisphere behind us, and some really cool blog bling, awareness of this issue could sky-rocket.

I was going to eat a bag of m&m's before bed. Now? I'm going to toss it. Thank you.

 
On 5/11/07 , Dedee said...

Ouch.

Checking on Lindt.

 
On 5/11/07 , Stephanie Humphreys said...

As if weight gain wasn't enough reason to swear off chocolate, this puts the icing on the cake. Guess I'll haver to go eat a carrot instead.

 
On 5/11/07 , Lilacspecs said...

That's good to know. I tend to only buy chocolate from Belgium anymore, but who knows, maybe Cote D'Orr does teh same thing...it's worth looking into, and certainly worth boycotting.

 
On 5/11/07 , Bec said...

The even sadder news is how difficult it is to buy ANY product not owned by a company owned by or at least affiliated with a chocolate company.

 
On 5/11/07 , Radioactive Jam said...

Well, crap.

My small amount personal satisfaction for regularly buying Fair Trade "tagged" products (tea and chocolate, both bought at Target... hmm...) is tempered by the realization of what it means when I don't.

Wonder how many other industries depend on consumer ignorance? Because I think it would be hard to remain indifferent, once details like these are known.

 
On 5/11/07 , Anne Bradshaw said...

Wow, this is horrible! Thanks for letting us know, Luisa. Also thanks for the Fair Trade info. I've never seen that before. Mind you, I've never thought of looking. I certainly will from now on.

 
On 6/11/07 , Brillig said...

Well, it's about time I go on a diet anyway. This is the sort of thing that will help me really do it.

Or... maybe I'll just move to South America and eat the good stuff all day long...

 
On 9/11/07 , Catherine said...

Oh....no....

 
On 11/11/07 , Fourier Analyst said...

Jeez, I should have heeded your warning not to read this post. Now I have to do research on Leonidas which is the only brand I would have trouble giving up.

Thanks anyway (I think!).