Unwrapping your Chocolate
by Darcie Nolan
The day of February 14th has been a recognized holiday for celebration since 500 AD, though not always as a romantic occasion. St. Valentine’s Day was originally a feast day for remembrance of Catholic priests that had been martyred. Over time, folklore and romance were added.
Today we celebrate love. We give gifts and recognize the closest and dearest to our hearts. The National Retail Federation reports that holiday spending is expected to reach $15.7 billion in the US alone. One of the highly purchased traditional gifts is chocolate.
West Africa, Children and your Cocoa
Seventy percent of the world’s cocoa comes from West Africa. Measures have been taken to attempt to eradicate child-labor in the area, but they are failing. In 2001 the Harkin-Engel Protocol, commonly called the Cocoa Protocol, was signed by eight members of the Chocolate Manufacturers Association. The goal was to end child-labor practices by 2010. Tulane University’s Payson Center for International Development, the independent auditor for the protocol, reported just last year, “Hundreds of thousands of children are involved in work on cocoa farms.” Child trafficking for labor continues as only four percent of the world’s chocolate is considered sustainable.
Chocolate companies are quick to rebrand. Mars has partnered with Rainforest Alliance (RA), working to ensure their entire cocoa supply is “sustainably produced” by 2020, but the RA certification only covers 30% of a chocolate bar. Fairtrade certification requires 100% of the operations to meet certified content and established wages to the producers. It isn’t surprising that RA hasn’t moved to 100% since their board of directors includes an executive chairman of Pinnacle Foods and an ex-CEO of Kraft. “We didn’t want 100-percent requirements to be a deterrent to large companies,” said RA spokeswoman Abby Ray.
Switch your Habit
All hope is not lost in our love for chocolate. Ethical companies are certifying their chocolate is Slave Free and their brands are making it into our most frequented groceries and local markets. If you know what to look for, you can safely savor the bittersweet cocoa you crave. From start to finish, several brands are employing well and producing ethically.
The Better World Shopping Guide is a good place to start if you are looking at your local shelves.
No matter where you are reading from, there are great websites, advocacy groups and places to get information about your chocolate and its origins. If you know of a great resource, please comment below and share it with others.
Here are a couple of articles and websites you might want to visit before you purchase your favorite person a Valentine’s gift this year. It is easier then you think to buy well and show your significant other you love them, and support another’s freedom.