As another Halloween approaches, and as parents in the Rockford area think about buying chocolate as “treats” for children, here is something to consider: The chocolate you buy could be tainted with child labor.
Monday, Sept. 19, marks the 10-year anniversary of the signing of the Harkin-Engel Protocol — an agreement by the country’s largest chocolate companies to put an end to forced child labor on cocoa farms in West Africa by 2005.
Ten years later, not enough progress has been made. Hundreds of thousands of children are still forced to work under abusive conditions for long hours on cocoa farms in West Africa, while others are victims of trafficking and forced labor.
The largest chocolate manufacturer in the United States, Hershey, lags behind its competitors in eliminating these abuses from its cocoa supply chain. What’s more, news recently surfaced that Hershey has been exploiting student guest workers here in the U.S. in one of its packing facilities.
Some of Hershey’s competitors, including Mars and Nestle, have committed to start sourcing cocoa that is independently certified to comply with labor rights standards.
I urge Hershey — the most iconic chocolate company in the U.S. — to protect workers from bean to bar and certify its chocolate as Fair Trade, ensuring that forced child labor is removed from its chocolate bars, its kisses, and its peanut butter cups.
Meantime, I’ll be handing out Fair Trade Certified chocolate to my trick-or-treaters this Halloween.
From the Sept. 21-27, 2011, issue