Posted by: r.m. | November 11, 2008

another face to chocolate

There is more to that addictive sweetness of chocolate.

As Marcy reminds me, this is what i tried to post: “It is deeply tied to modern-day slavery around the world. and i’ve never seen any fair-trade chocolate in this region.”

slavery? Yes:

At a run-down police station in Sikasso, a small town in Mali, the files on missing children are endlessThe sad truth is that many have been kidnapped and sold into slavery. The going price is about US$30.



I might have got out but there are thousands of children still over there. If by your report, you can help free just one, you would be doing a good job

Former child slave Malick Doumbia

The local police chief is in no doubt where the children have gone. “It’s definitely slavery over there,” he said. “The kids have to work so hard they get sick and some even die.”


In all, at least 15,000 children are thought to be over in the neighbouring Ivory Coast, producing cocoa which then goes towards making almost half of the world’s chocolate.

Many are imprisoned on farms and beaten if they try to escape. Some are under 11 years old.”





Mali’s Save the Children Fund director, Salia Kante, has a message for shoppers – think about what you are buying

“I might have got out,” said Malick Doumbia, “but there are thousands of children still over there. If by your report, you can help free just one, you would be doing a good job.” 

The work of this former slave ended up in shops around the world, as products that often do not specify exactly where they came from.



Is this simply a problem for Mali? For the ongoing cycle of slavery in Africa?

Is this simply their concern?

Well, “As publicity about the use of child slaves in the chocolate industry mounted in the summer and fall of 2001, so did pressure on the chocolate manufacturers. Chocolate is a symbol of sweetness and innocence, but Western chocolate consumers know there is nothing sweet and nothing innocent about slavery.

On June 28, 2001, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 291-115 to look into setting up a labeling system so consumers could be assured no slave labor was used in the production of their chocolate. Unhappy with this turn of events, the U.S. chocolate industry and its allies mounted an intense lobbying effort to fight off legislation that would require “slave free” labels for their products. The Chocolate Manufacturer’s Association, a trade group that represents U.S. chocolate producers, hired two former Senate majority leaders – Bob Dole, a Republican, and George Mitchell, a Democrat – to lobby lawmakers on its behalf.

“But pressure on the industry was mounting. The legislation to address child slavery in West Africa that had passed in the House (sponsored by Representative Eliot Engel) was by now almost certain to pass in the Senate (where it was sponsored by Senator Tom Harkin). On October 1, 2001, the chocolate industry announced a four-year plan to eventually eliminate child slavery in cocoa-producing nations, and particularly West Africa, where most of the world’s chocolate is grown. If all went according to the plan, called the “Harkin-Engel Protocol,” the “worst forms of child labor” – including slavery – would no longer be used to produce chocolate and cocoa by 2005.

So, what’s happened since?

Not enough.

And that was what the Harkin-Engel Protocol wanted to do: not enough.

According to ChocolateWork.Com (which “presents relevant and current information regarding the ethical and moral considerations of the chocolate that you purchase and ultimately consume and its potential relationship to forced labor and chocolate slavery in the cocoa industry”), “The protocol has been criticized by such groups as the International Labor Rights Fund, which has said the Protocol “is inadequate alone to address the complex problem of child labor in the cocoa sector effectively. It has resulted in a privatized mechanism without binding and enforceable rights.”  Other critics have pointed out that the Protocol does not forbid the use of slavery in general, only the enslavement of children. The industry could effectively abide by the Protocol and still use cocoa produced with slave labor.”


AH – but then it gets worse! Get this!

The U.S. government could simply enforce existing federal laws against the importation of products made with forced labor, such as Section 307 of The Tariff Act of 1930, which mandates that the U.S. Customs Service refuse entry to any product made “in whole or in part” by forced or indentured labor. Section 307 excludes from entry into the commerce of the United States any goods that it has reason to believe were mined, produced, or manufactured with forced or indentured child labor in a foreign country

“Additionally, President Bill Clinton’s Executive Order No. 13126 in 1999 prohibited federal agencies from buying products made by enslaved children, yet the original list did not include cocoa.”

So, what do you do?

What do YOU do?

Recognize that as consumers we still have some power.

Here is a listing of some fair-trade cocoa and chocolate sources — Fair Trade Chocolate

Look for them. Ask for them. Buy them.

And if you can’t find any ethical chocolate, well, follow dear Marcy’s lead: “I tend to eat local sweets if I cannot find fair trade chocolate.”



  1. you make me so happy when you blog. and thanks for posting more about chocolate and for thinking about it further. you should seriously think about creating a market for this in lebanon so that it is available and so that it raises the consciousness of people in lebanon. there may be some small shopkeepers in hamra–including cocodine–that may be interested. 🙂

  2. WOW! this is completly not what i taught this topic will be about. However, that was something new never taught of slavery while thinking of how this chocolate was made. Slavery will never end even if laws are made because laws are tend to be broken. the slave free labels i have never seen any of them, i have to pay more attention when buying chocolate.
    Sally El-Koussa

  3. This is shocking! I have never heard about this slavery trade and labor, and I assume that most people (especially the Arab world) are unaware of this fact as well. Awareess about this issue should be spread. If more chocolate consumers stopped purchasing products that are being produced by slaves, these companies would stop ensalving people. Because no matter how many laws prohibit agencies from doing it, it will still take place.

  4. What a nasty discovery to make. All-time favorite chocolate brands hide brew slavery and children’s sweat into their cocoa. As for another unpleasant article to read, this link is for a campaign against child labor that exploits many companies for their misconduct.

  5. i am a big fan of chocolate. but now after reading this article i dont know if i would be able to eat chocolate knowing that every bite of chocolate and every sip of coffee is causing a child to suffer more. How can children be sold for a simple amount of 30 dollars???? What is the government of MAli doing about it? about 15000 children are missing and even dead or are still dying because of our purchase of coffee and cocoa.

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