Do you have a little chocolate craving?
October 1, 2008 1:01 PM   Subscribe

A brief history of chocolate slavery: That Chocolate is an oligopoly might surprise a few people. Chocolate's Bittersweet Economy (pdf) shows that seven years after the industry had agreed to abolish child labour, little progress has been made. Cross-border Migration of Working Children has still been left out of Harkin-Engel Cocoa Protocol Process. Bitter Chocolate Reflects on the politics of cocoa and chocolate. With Halloween approaching you might consider a Fair Trade approach to Trick or Treat. (If Chocolate slavery doesn't make you throw up a little maybe this will.)
posted by adamvasco (26 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
This is a very serious topic, so I'll get the obvious joke out of the way first:

Won't somebody think of the Oompa-Loompas?
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:05 PM on October 1, 2008

some stay dry and others feel the pain.
posted by Hat Maui at 1:06 PM on October 1, 2008 [4 favorites]

bitter chocolate stories
posted by bodywithoutorgans at 1:16 PM on October 1, 2008

Just for a clarification, a little under half the world's cocoa is produced in Cote d'Ivoire. About half of Cote d'Ivoire's cocoa production is certified.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:19 PM on October 1, 2008

I think it's safe to let Hershey's off the hook, since they don't make chocolate. I don't know what that crap is, but chocolate it ain't.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:21 PM on October 1, 2008 [4 favorites]

The only problem is that most of the fair trade chocolate I've found so far tastes terrible. I keep buying different brands with the fair trade logo, and every single one of them has tasted significantly worse than Hershey, much less any gourmet type chocolate.

Its like they know ethical people will feel compelled to buy their product regardless of taste so they don't even try.
posted by sotonohito at 1:30 PM on October 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

April 2007 Amnesty International expresses alarm at continuing child labour in cocoa industry. Real fast and honest certification there.
posted by adamvasco at 1:40 PM on October 1, 2008

I'm looking forward to seeing Leonardo DiCaprio in "Chocolate Diamond".
posted by datter at 1:43 PM on October 1, 2008

I rented a movie called "Chocolate Slavery" once. Wasn't what I expected.
posted by rokusan at 1:46 PM on October 1, 2008 [3 favorites]

I don't know what that crap is, but chocolate it ain't.

It's a chocolatey bar!
posted by porpoise at 1:50 PM on October 1, 2008

sotonohito: Dagoba sells Fair trade chocolate and is very well reviewed. I've always been impressed by their products.
posted by contraption at 1:53 PM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

How will this effect Chocolate City?
posted by luckypozzo at 2:09 PM on October 1, 2008

sotonohito wrote "every single one of them has tasted significantly worse than Hershey"

I find just the opposite is true. I can't really eat a Hershey bar any more, largely because they're too cloyingly sweet. After eating nothing but fair trade dark actual chocolate for years, Hershey doesn't cut it. When I'm currently getting 70 to 95% cacao in my chocolate bars, why would I want to buy chocolate that is only required to be a minimum of 10% cacao? You're paying for sugar (and butyric acid). I'm paying for chocolate.

And, of course there's also this (from the Wikipedia page on chocolate, emphasis mine): "In March 2007, the Chocolate Manufacturers Association, whose members include Hershey, Nestlé, and Archer Daniels Midland, began lobbying the FDA to change the legal definition of chocolate to let them substitute 'safe and suitable vegetable fats and oils' (including partially hydrogenated vegetable oils) for cocoa butter in addition to using "any sweetening agent" (including artificial sweeteners) and milk substitutes. Currently, the FDA does not allow a product to be referred to as "chocolate" if the product contains any of these ingredients."

That Hershey bar still taste good to you? Because to me it tastes like corporate greed.
posted by caution live frogs at 2:24 PM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

contraption Thanks, I'll give them a try.
posted by sotonohito at 2:31 PM on October 1, 2008

I remember writing a term paper on how the IMF policies in Ghana changed chocolate production there—it had, for a long time, been handled roughly through collectives that operated under the aegis of the government, which ensured a subsidized price in exchange for some working condition regulation (and high quality). The IMF structural-adjustment plans basically removed this regulatory body, and that meant that a lot of the chocolate production there was destabilized, where the middle-man of the government had before protected the interests of the agricultural sector from the oligopoly of chocolate companies. This led to a decrease in the standard of living for a lot of folks, and made Ghanese chocolate co-ops some of the first to negotiate Fair Trade contracts (whether Fair Trade is itself a good idea is up to whatever economic ideology you subscribe to). I remember it being cited as a possible cause of real political instability in Ghana, especially since its neighbors were having total freak-outs, but I don't think anything really came of that, and Ghana retained its President through re-election. But a lot of people ended up moving to the cities, and there was a lot more economic emigration because of it. I wonder if I still have the paper around somewhere—I wrote it when a lot of good geographic/economic studies had just come out, and it was pretty easy to tie changes in chocolate production to shifts in standards of living, both rural and urban.
posted by klangklangston at 2:35 PM on October 1, 2008

Shoulda previewed.

caution live frogs I didn't say I liked Hershey, just that all the fair trade chocolate I've tried tastes worse.

I'm a milk chocolate person, to me all the stuff about 95% cacao sounds a bit like people with asbestos tongues bragging that *their* hot sauce is almost pure capsaicin. So 10% to 25% (depending if want to use US or Euro definitions) doesn't sound bad to me.

My objection to Hershey isn't the cacao content, but that its just plain nasty. And produced by slave labor, that's kind of a big minus.

klang Well, the IMF and WTO essentially exist to keep the third world down, yes? I mean, has any nation implementing IMF and WTO mandates actually seen its standard of living go up? I seem to recall that Argentina did every little thing those organizations demanded, sold off all national assets (especially water and power) and in just a few short years the standard of living had plummeted, the newly privatized water companies had (through the miracle of not being inefficient government agencies) decreased quality and tripled prices, etc. Gotta love the economic miracles of the WTO and IMF....
posted by sotonohito at 2:42 PM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Two in one enslavery addiction: chocolate keyboard.

aww. Chocolate was previously just a guilty pleasure. Now it's a shameful one. *hangs head

Should the chocolate makers be the only ones held accountable? What about the people who bring children into the world and then sell them for $50 to $100 as child slaves to the chocolate makers?

Is boycotting chocolate made by these factories going to save the children who would otherwise be slaves there? Wouldn't it be logical for parents who who sell their children as slaves to then simply abandon those children or sell them as slaves elsewhere?

The Faces of Modern Slavery

Free the Slaves site (with practical ideas about what people can do to help) for buying things Made By Survivors. Maybe a good Christmas shopping site?

From the Christian Parenti article pdf (excellent reading and photographs)

But Hershey has no direct role in implementing reforms
in Ivory Coast
. Instead, the protocol required the industry
to create a foundation to oversee certification. That body is
the International Cocoa Initiative, or ICI
, headquartered in
Geneva, and funded by the chocolate industry to the tune
of about $2 million a year. The foundation began its work in
Ivory Coast in 2003, and it claims to have six pilot projects
underway there. “We are doing high-quality, scalable work,”
says Peter McAllister, ICI’s executive director. “We’ve not
yet had a significant effect, but it’s a journey.” He is unfazed
about the looming July 2008 deadline: “We don’t see it as
ending in 2008. Our process works, and we’re committed for
the long term.”
But the foundation has only one staff member in Ivory
Coast, Robale Kagohi, and his activities appear limited

This what ICI says it is doing. But according to the Parenti article, ICI is being very slack about making appropriate changes.

Sounds like it might help to boycott Hershey's for not working on implementing reforms and write a letter/email to Peter McAllister,International Cocoa Initiative's executive director. Encouraging others reading this to do the same: contact info:

International Cocoa Initiative
28, rue du Village
1214 Vernier Geneva, Switzerland

T :+41 22 341 47 25
F :+41 22 341 47 26
posted by nickyskye at 3:49 PM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

PS, just sent my email to Peter McAllister.
posted by nickyskye at 4:00 PM on October 1, 2008

"Well, the IMF and WTO essentially exist to keep the third world down, yes? I mean, has any nation implementing IMF and WTO mandates actually seen its standard of living go up?"

To answer your second question first, states that have implemented IMF SAPs and seen their standard of living go up include Germany, France, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand… Basically, the whole raft of folks who were destroyed in WWII were the first round, and then the IMF branched out, and has had pretty decent results in SE Asia with their "Washington Consensus." But it's not a panacea, and the SAPs were applied with kind of a one-size-fits-all approach until the 2006 reforms (which I don't know enough about current literature to speak on their effectiveness). There's even a pretty decent case to be made that a) the SAPs were only a relatively small contributory cause to Argentina's collapse, and b) that Argentina is better in the long run for having had that collapse.

Two more salient points about IMF loans—That most states that need them would be forced toward much more brutal austerity by the fleeing of investor dollars without the IMF loans, and that the IMF does have a stakeholder duty to try to minimize losses from the fund so that it can continue to offer funds to others.

I'm not an IMF apologist, and think that many of their policies are counter-productive, and note that institutionally they prize stability over freedom in a way I find distasteful, but I also think they get an undeserved bad rap fairly often—but with regard to the Ghanaian chocolate markets, they screwed up by not recognizing the benefit of state interest in chocolate sales.
posted by klangklangston at 5:06 PM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

sotonohito: have you tried Theo Chocolate? I'm a fan. They have milk chocolate bars in their "Jane Goodall" and "3400 Phinney" lines. I like the slightly odd ones best; the milk chocolate coconut curry bar is surprisingly good, and the chai milk chocolate makes the world's best s'mores.
posted by sculpin at 5:06 PM on October 1, 2008

thanks for this post, adamvasco - and for all the subsequent links, MeFolks, thanks too (especially nickyskye, that Parenti article was very well done) - interesting & provocative reading all around

sadly, chocolate consumption has always relied on exploitation, from the Aztecs & Mayas on through the colonial horrors of plantation slavery & up to the present - Carol Off's Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World's Most Seductive Sweet is an excellent & incisive history of this aspect of chocolate production - highly recommended (it's not a book I enjoyed reading, especially given my appreciation of chocolate, but I'm still glad I did)
posted by jammy at 6:04 PM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Cocoa Industry in West Africa - a history of exloitation (pdf) published by Anti Slavery International 2004.
posted by adamvasco at 3:42 AM on October 2, 2008

I've said this about 50 times on mefi, to the point I am a broken record, but as mentioned above, Dagoba is excellent. The best fair trade chocolate I've had. The slavery issue actually made chocolate even more delicious for me and my housemate--I never bothered to try Dagoba before I learned it was the most viable option for non-slavery chocolate (you can get it at Wild Oats and other alternative grocery stores across the country). Xocolatl is in my top 3 chocolate bars ever eaten--right up there with Cote D'Or.
posted by ifjuly at 8:24 AM on October 2, 2008

I have an everlasting chocolate-nerd hard-on for Bernachon chocolate, but I can't figure out how their source their chocolate.

Considering that most of this reported chocolate-slavery goes on in Côte d'Ivoire, does this mean that we can eat single-source chocolate (i.e., Venezuelan criollo, Columbian beans, Madagascar, etc.) with a clear conscience? probably not, but worth a try...
posted by LMGM at 2:57 PM on October 2, 2008

Dark Chocolate: Half A Bar Per Week May Keep Heart Attack Risk At Bay

"We are talking of a moderate consumption. The best effect is obtained by consuming an average amount of 6.7 grams of chocolate per day, corresponding to a small square of chocolate twice or three times a week. Beyond these amounts the beneficial effect tends to disappear".

Compounds Also Present In Alcoholic Beverages May Explain Chocolate Cravings
posted by nickyskye at 10:15 PM on October 2, 2008

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