What is in Your Chocolate this Halloween?

What are you doing this Halloween? According to the National Retail Federation, over 70% of Americans plan to hand out candy on the 31st, a day that will generate over $8.4 billion dollars in spending this year, $2.4 billion in candy. As you plan your Halloween festivities, we encourage you to think about what is in your candy this year.

Of course, the majority of candy to be handed out this year is chocolate. But did you know that despite generating over $110 billion a year, the chocolate industry has a century-long history of forced and child labor.

Over 70% of cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate, comes from the southern shores of Western Africa, specifically Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. According to the US Department of State, over 100,000 children in the Ivory Coast cocoa industry work under the “worst forms of child labour” (as defined by the International Labour Organization). Issues of trafficking and severe child labor within cocoa production sparked the US government to demand changes from leaders in the industry. In September 2001, the Harkin-Engel Protocol, also known as the Cocoa Protocol, was signed into law. The protocol was intended to combat child and forced labor in the industry. However, after several deadlines for changes came and went (in 2005, 2008, and 2010), the protocol was replaced with “The Declaration of Joint Action to Support Implementation of the Harkin-Engel Protocol,” pledging to reduce child labor by 70% in the Ivory Coast by 2020. However, a study published in 2015 found a 51% increase in the number of children working in the industry in comparison to their previous report in 2009.

In September 2015, a class action lawsuit was filed against Hershey, Mars, and Nestle, accusing them of false advertising by failing to disclose the use of slavery on their packaging, despite their knowledge of such practices. While the lawsuit is still under way, it is a fresh attempt at taking action against the chocolate industry’s blatant disregard of trafficking within their supply chains.

The Fair Trade Movement has also been working with cocoa producers to ensure that they adhere to strict labor standards. Several organizations, including FairTrade International, FairTrade USA, the Fair Trade Federation, and the World Fair Trade Organization, audit producers and certifies cocoa products to inform consumers that their chocolate is produced in an ethical and slavery-free manner. When purchasing chocolate products, look for these images to make sure your chocolate is not laced with forced or child labor:

Human Trafficking Search encourages you to be cognizant of the candy that you buy and hand out this Halloween. Turning a blind eye to forced labor and trafficking only perpetuates the problem. You can be part of the solution by purchasing ethically-produced and slavery-free chocolate. Additionally, take a look at this list of alternative nuggets to hand out for trick-or-treaters.

Photo Credit: WoodTV

Firas Nasr is the Director of Communications at Human Trafficking Search.