Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Bitter Truth About Hershey

Retro Housewife with an important message about chocolate and this post won't make you hungry.

Most of us love chocolate. American's eat a lot of the stuff, around 2.8 billion pounds a year. But there is a dirty secret behind that sweet chocolate bar. Around 70% of the cocoa beans that are used to make our chocolate come from western Africa, where forced labor is far to common.

The Assessment of Child Labor in the Cocoa Supply Chain in Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana, done by the Payson Center at Tulane University in 2009, found that children used in cocoa farmer are involved in weeding, plucking the cocoa pods, gathering the pods, and other jobs. They are often exposed to toxic pesticides, have to carry heavy loads, and use dangerous tools.

The report also showed that 15% of the children surveyed were forced to work in the past twelve months. And nearly 50% of the children working in the farms in Cote d'Ivoire and over 50% in Ghana reported injuries from the work over the past year. Human trafficking is a major problem as well. Many children are brought from Mali to work on the cocoa plantations.

So what does all of this have to do with Hershey? Well Hershey is the most popular brand in the U.S. They account for 42.5% of the U.S. market. Even though Hershey has known since at least 2001 of the problems that exist with it's supply chain, they have yet to stop sourcing from places that use forced labor. Getting Hershey to change its ways would equal a huge win for fair trade in the cocoa industry and would be a large step in ending forced labor in the western Africa.

You can help tell Hershey that you want fair chocolate by going to the Raise The Bar campaign page and sending an email to Hershey, call Hershey, and more. We need to tell companies like Hershey that we demand fair and ethical products.

The winner of the Raise The Bar video contest.

Will learning this make you rethink your chocolate buying habits? Do you already support Fair Trade chocolate? IF so, what are your favorite brands?

Photo credits: miss karen


Marie said...

We don't buy anything Hershey, Nestle, Cadbury...any of the big brands. We are very partial to Endangered Species Chocolate, Equal Exchange and Taza.




Lisa Sharp said...

Marie: That's great. I have never heard of Taza, I will check it out. I really like Divine chocolate.

Green Bean said...

I really hope the big brands will get with the program and go fair trade/organic! I shelled out big bucks for a FT chocolate Easter bunny only to have my son throw it out because he didn't like how it tasted. :(

Marie said...

Lisa, Taza is a small company located in Somerville, MA. But they DO ship

Dea-chan said...

A few things that I looked up about Hershey: 1) they have reformatted some of their chocolates to use vegetable oil in lieu of the expensive cocoa butter. As this is against FDA regulations to call it chocolate, they call it chocolate candy or something like that.
2) they are the only big name brand of chocolate that does not do animal testing. All I can say to that is: wtf are they doing that other companies feel needs animal testing?!

I've never really been a fan of Taza but I see it frickin' everywhere (I live in Somerville). We mostly buy Valrhona which is shipped in from France (not green, but tasty).

Dea-chan said...

Oh, and over half of the world's chocolate comes from child's labor -- not just Hershey.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

@Marie - I vaguely remember that Cadbury switched to fair trade cocoa for it's dairy milk bars a couple years ago and planned to switch all of their products to fair trade, though I don't think they've done if yet.

Mitty said...

I highly recommend Equal Exchange, which also sells baking cocoa and drinking cocoa. I like Endangered Species brand as well. I am inclined to be suspicious of the "no animal testing" claim. It is like the company that said its peanut butter had "no cholesterol" (plants don't contain cholesterol, so why would it?).

Lisa Sharp said...

Green Bean: Me too. And that's to bad. Which one was it? My mom got me one that was fair trade and I loved it.

Marie: Thanks!

Dee-chan: Wow I didn't know all of that. I knew about the oil but not the other. Yes you are right, I have written a lot about Nestle and the chocolate trade on my personal blog- www.retrohousewifegoesgreen.com

Erin: I remember that as well. I think they have been fair trade in England for awhile.

Mitty: I have had both. I really like Divine Chocolate for plain milk chocolate.

Marie said...

Here's a link to a great site for more information about who produces what fairly. Great information!


green said...

I used to live in the Dominican Republic in a farming village (campo) that existed mainly on chocolate farming. Child labor is a relative term. Kids have to help their parents in order to survive - just like our great and grand parents did. As most kids only get a few years of formal education (there are few if any schools in the more distant reaches and high schools are only in bigger towns) it only makes sense that the kids help out. BUT, the big difference is, they do this as a family "business", not as employees or slaves for bigger companies. While the DR is most likely producing only a small percentage of the world chocolate, it should help assuage you consciences - not all chocolate that is not fair trade or organic is coming from bad places. Getting organic status, or even knowing how to do it or how to market it or how to get the certification or... is beyond what my neighbors had knowledge (or the reading skills) for. While they are not getting top dollar for their crops,they are making enough to survive... barely.

In the push to reform the chocolate farming practices, it is just not the companies that need the nudge. Helping the farmers switch over to environmentally friendly techniques, helping them create or find markets and then get their crops to the market (there are no roads in many of these places, most chocolate is brought out on mule or horse back - or human back) - that is as critical to making the change as convincing the companies to do so.

In fact, it might be more critical. If this is not done, you are minimizing the wages of people who are already barely surviving - and through no fault of their own. It would, however, be through our own self riotous indignation.

Rodney North said...

Folks might like to know about our annual Halloween public education campaign around chocolate and forced child labor that we do jointly with a lot of great ngo's like Global Exchange, ILRF, Green America and others.

It's called "Reverse Trick-or-Treating" and its a great way that kids here can help kids in cocoa-growing regions, and its way to educate your own family and neighbors. Plus its a way to help out that goes beyond buying Fair Trade chocolate (please don't stop doing that! :) )

Lastly, we've also created a green fundraising program for schools that features organic Fair Trade chocolates AND offers teachers a 16unit curriculum that focuses on Fair Trade cocoa and the example of our cocoa farmer partners in the Dominican Republic.
see http://www.EqualExchange.coop/fundraiser


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