A few weeks ago, as I was waiting in the check out line at Trader Joe's, the selection of chocolate bars conveniently placed for impulse buying caught my eye (big surprise!). Since my cholesterol is a little high, I began perusing the dark chocolate.
I noticed a bar labeled "Trader Joe's Swiss 71% Dark Chocolate" and picked it up for a closer look.
The small print talked about "intense, full bodied dark chocolate made from fairly traded cocoa beans."
Intrigued, I turned the bar over and read, "Fair chocolate helps contribute to a better way of life for farmers and their families. This method of buying cocoa beans offers small-scale growers a fair price for their harvest. It's a win-win situation. You get the flavor of high quality Swiss chocolate, and you also get the confidence of knowing the ingredients were purchased in a socially responsible manner. How sweet it is."
Cool, I thought, and purchased two bars "for medicinal purposes".
I was blissfully ignorant of the human traffikking in the chocolate industry.
Thankfully, I received an email yesterday explaining that an Azusa Pacific University chapel speaker had challenged the student body to look at their chocolate consumption habits and consider the source of said chocolate. I was directed to http://www.stopthetraffik.org/chocolatecampaign/. Here is an excerpt from the site:
"Diabate and Traoré had left their village in Mali to go to Ivory Coast looking for enough money to afford a bicycle, but they were sold to a man who had paid 50,000 West African Francs (about £50) for the two boys and he wanted the money back—in labour. The boys from Sirkasso met about twenty others in the same predicament and learned that no one was ever paid. They slept in a rectangle-shaped mud hut that initially had windows but when some boys found they could escape during the night, the windows were sealed shut. Diabate and Traoré remember eating mostly bananas, though they would gobble up the cocoa beans, as others did, whenever they got the chance. Many months passed, and the boys forgot what the purpose had once been for this adventure. Life became a struggle to exist, then hardened to despair.
They gave up thinking of escape. They were under constant threat of beatings if they were caught trying to flee—and they had seen several boys treated savagely—they were actually spooked by a belief that they were under a spell. Read more in Carol Off's book 'Bitter Chocolate'. "
After reading this, I felt utterly ashamed of my complete lack of awareness of this situation. The slave trade is alive and well, and I personally have contributed to it.
I am grateful to Trader Joe's for stocking free trade chocolate. I will be buying my "cholesterol medicine" from them exclusively until the big chocolate companies clean up their acts.
Will you join me?