Chocolate and Child Labor

Child labor is one of those problems that sneaks up on you. Unless you spend a lot of time thinking about it and researching it, anything you consume, it seems, could be tainted by it. I was surprised, for example, to find that for over ten years, the American chocolate industry has been struggling with child slavery in Africa. This includes both Nestle and Hershey’s. Here’s a story from Mother Jones magazine about it, published to coincide with Valentine’s Day.

If you gave someone chocolate for Valentine’s Day, it may well have come from the Ivory Coast, the source of about 35 percent of the globe’s cocoa production. And if it did come from the Ivory Coast, it may well have been harvested by unpaid child workers being held captive on plantations—that is to say, child slaves.

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin helped push legislation in 2001 that would have helped address this, but it was, according to the Moral Courage Project, blocked by lobbyists. There’s also a new documentary about the problem:


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