This really is the scariest thing about Halloween: most of the chocolate you'll see is the product of child slave labor. This fall The Payson Center for International Development released a report showing that the voluntary programs adopted by the largest chocolate companies in the world are failing to address the problems of child and forced labor in West Africa. According to this report, the majority of child workers moved to cocoa farms without their parents, and virtually all workers experienced verbal, physical, and sexual harassment and restrictions of their freedom of movement and performed hazardous work. Another report released this fall found still more serious issues in the cocoa industry.
I know you're busy, and you know what the kids like, and it's just easier (not to mention cheaper) to pick up the usual mini bars from your closest grocery store. But you could make a better choice. And it's not even that hard.
Fortunately a growing number of chocolate companies are working to eradicate child labor and other cruel practices -- practices that have no place in a food that symbolizes fun and celebration. Look for Fair Trade chocolate.
Green American Today has provided some handy tools to make a better choice for your kids -- and for kids around the world.
1. Use the “Get Child Labor Out of Your Chocolates Scorecard” when you're shopping for Halloween candy to find free trade chocolates. The scorecard includes an explanation of certification labels.
2. All of the "A" ranked alternatives from the Scorecard are available online. Check out this Slave-Free Chocolate table. You can also find a lot of these options at local stores around the country -- and yes, sometimes even at your local grocery store.
3. If you give out "fair trade" candy, mention it to the parents. You don't have to get all preachy about it (unless you're going as Debbie Downer for Halloween). Just smile and say, "Fair trade chocolate for you!"
4. Tell big chocolate companies like Hershey's how much you'd love to see them take action against child labor: send your message here.
5. Leave a message for big chocolate companies -- and their fans -- on their Facebook pages.
6. While you're on Facebook, check out Green America's Facebook page, "like" them, and spread the word to your friends.
7. Learn more by watching The Dark Side of Chocolate. This documentary takes you to cocoa farms in Côte d’Ivoire, where egregious labor rights abuses continue years after major chocolate companies committed to ending this exploitation. Talk about scary movies!
It goes without saying, while buying Fair Trade chocolate supports companies doing the right thing, you don't have to give away candy at Halloween. You could give out stickers, temporary tattoos, even "tricks" like spider rings.
Image via Equal Exchange