Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Dark Side of Chocolate

Twenty-seven million people are enslaved today, announced the Not for Sale state director, Diedre Mars, at Friday night's screening of The Dark Side of Chocolate.  The documentary follows a team of journalists who investigate how human trafficking and child labor in the Ivory Coast fuels the worldwide chocolate industry.

After a stressful week of writing papers, reading French fairytales, and deciphering Heidi Klum's Good Housekeeping interview, the only thing I wanted to do on Friday night was put on comfy pajamas and crawl into bed.  But, my friend Kate-Marie (yes, she too has a double name) was hosting a chocolatey event.  I was in desperate need for a good story for a Valentine's article assignment and figured writing about fair-trade chocolate might be an interesting spin.  Little did I know that the film would pull at my heartstrings so severely.  

Just this Valentine's Day in the United States, the chocolate industry is expected to net $1.5 billion dollars.  Unfortunately, it comes at the cost of 12-15 year old children being ripped away from their families, sold into slavery, and forced into a life of poverty.  For only 230 euros, plantation farmers are able to purchase these children, who have been deceitfully promised a life of fair wages.  As I watched the film, a feeling of helplessness overcame me.  Preteens are constantly exposed to pesticides as they traipse around African forests carrying machetes and oversized loads of cocoa beans.  

Make sure you notice the
Fair-Trade Logo! 
The proof is in the film footage; each day at least 10-15 children are illegally smuggled into the Ivory Coast. Nonetheless, authorities adamantly deny child trafficking.  

So, what can we do to insure this atrocities no longer occur?  Well, being a consciousness shopper definitely helps.  The purchases that you make every day have an effect. Researching who you buy from matters. It's one of the easiest but most powerful actions we can make.  Sure, it's frustrating that fair-trade chocolate has to be so expensive, but with buying fair trade chocolate, consumers receive excellent products, plus the peace of mind that they are addressing poverty, preserving the environment, and promoting an end to child labor.

Fair trade chocolate is available at Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Fresh Market and other speciality stores.  A white chocolate with strawberries Divine bar will run you about $5.50.  I know it's pricy, but well worth it; and did I mention that it's super super tasty!  

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