Dark Side of Chocolate

A delegation of American lawmakers is visiting cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast and Ghana this week to monitor child labor abuses. Senator Bernie Sanders said before departing for Africa that he hoped "to see to what degree indentured children are being used to manufacture products which come into this country as chocolate." One 2005 study said as many as 200,000 children worked in plantations in the Ivory Coast, according an Agence France-Presse report. "The issue of child labor and the fact t

A delegation of American lawmakers is visiting cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast and Ghana this week to monitor child labor abuses. Senator Bernie Sanders said before departing for Africa that he hoped "to see to what degree indentured children are being used to manufacture products which come into this country as chocolate." One 2005 study said as many as 200,000 children worked in plantations in the Ivory Coast, according an Agence France-Presse report. "The issue of child labor and the fact that you have very young kids who are working horrendous hours and not going to schools is an international problem," Sanders told the Burlington weekly newspaper Seven Days, "and it's one that has concerned me for a number of years. So we'll take a look and see what's going on in the chocolate industry."

While most of the major cocoa exporters -- Cargill; Archer, Daniels, Midland & Nestle -- and manufacturers -- Mars and Hershey's -- haven't certified any of their cocoa as child-labor free, a third-party, independent monitoring group called TransFair USA has been able to certify that approximately 16,000 cocoa farms in Ghana and the Ivory Coast were free of the worst forms of child labor through the "Fair Trade Chocolate" movement. Through a certification process, cocoa farmers are guaranteed a living wage, farmers agree not to use indentured labor, and farms are organized into democratic cooperatives. Unfortunately, none of the major cocoa exporters, producers, or manufacturers has agreed to participate in the Fair Trade Chocolate movement, so less than 1 percent of the chocolate consumed in the world is Fair Trade Chocolate.

To read a San Francisco Chronicle report from Ivory Coast about the cocoa industry and regional conflict, click here.

To listen to or read the Voice of America report on the delegation trip, click here.

To read the AFP report, click here.

To read the Seven Days blog, click here.