Well, free of guilt from exploitation. You’re on your own for the calories. (But dark chocolate has important antioxidants and flavonoids and stuff. It’s good for you. That’s science.)
Chocolate, as covered here before, is a wonderful substance but is very often created by child slavery. Trafficked children work in horrible conditions on cocoa plantations to produce our tasty treat. But our purchasing habits can make a difference.
I bought a Dove dark chocolate bar, marked certified by the Rainforest Alliance. A bit of research (the Mars link is dead) shows that Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa farms cannot include any child labor, even part time, for children under 15.
To obtain the rewards of certification, farmers must comply with the Sustainable Agriculture Standard. This prohibits farms from employing full- or part-time workers under the age of 15; and between 15 and 17 children must have written authorisation for employment signed by their parents or legal guardian. Workers between 15 and 17 years old must not work more than eight hours per day or more than 42 hours per week, their work schedule must not interfere with educational opportunities and they must not be assigned activities that could put their health at risk, such as the handling and application of agrochemicals or activities that require strong physical exertion. These are exactly the type of abuses that have been most commonly recorded: children carrying heavy loads of cocoa pods from the tree to the fermentation and drying centre, spraying agrochemicals without protection and climbing trees with machetes to reach the higher up pods.
And because farm family children should work on the family farm, to participate with the family, have supervision while parents are working, and to learn valuable skills, the standard allows for that, too:
The Sustainable Agriculture Standard allows minors, who are part of the family, between 12 and 14 years old, to work part-time on family farms as long as their schedule, including school, transportation and work does not exceed ten hours on school days or eight hours on non-school days. Interpreting what does and doesn’t constitute child labour requires an understanding of local culture and tradition. For this reason, Rainforest Alliance’s policy of training and accrediting auditors from Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana is very important.
Excerpts from the Rainforest Alliance FrogBlog.
So in addition to Endangered Species and Theo Chocolate and other high end chocolatiers, there is an option to buy slave-free chocolate at the convenience store or grocery. Huzzah! And Mars says it wants to have all its chocolate products (M&Ms, Snickers, etc.) Rainforest Alliance Certified by 2020. We’ll see if it happens, but that would be great!
(Not sure what I’m talking about? Check out this post: On Today’s Slavery.)