Shocking revelations of co-operations, chocolate and child labour
By Wayne Dean Doyle
When you’re peeling back the wrapper of that piece of chocolate or being overwhelmed with comfort whilst sipping that cup of cocoa, would you embrace the oncoming delight and comfort if you knew more than 109,000 children from the Ivory Coast work under some of the most horrific forms of child labour? And over 10,000 of these children are victims of trafficking and enslavement according to Change.org.
“Children as young as seven endure sixteen hour days and beatings to produce the cocoa that major companies use to make chocolate. Only days before Easter, these companies are desperately competing with each other to maximize profits”, stated Amanda Kloer of Change.org.
Companies that currently purchase cocoa beans from West Africa where slave tainted labour is being used to produce cocoa include of M&M, Mars, Cadbury Ltd, Butler’s Ltd, Kraft and Ben and Gerry’s.
“These companies do not have to publicise the country of origin of raw materials such as cocoa beans” stated Vanessa Cooling of the Food Safety Authority.
“With meat products and various other products, country of origin must be declared on labelling etc, but not in this instance. I’m sure if you contacted these companies directly, they would provide you with the information you need”.
Companies such as Nestlé, Hershey’s, Cadbury and Butler’s are all lacking when it comes to providing clear accountability within the area of their products.
The lack of traceability is frightening for a concerned consumer.
“We source our beans from Ghana, stated Christine Baldwin, a customer representative of Cadbury Ltd. “I do not have any more information for you”.
Similar enquiries were made to Butlers Ltd, a leading luxury chocolate company within the Irish market and unfortunately requests for information were met with a similar response. “We do not give that information to the public”, stated Kathy Keeney a customer representative of Butlers Chocolate.
Nestlé control a substantial amount of the Irish chocolate industry with a multitude of products. Michelle Doyle a Public Relations officer of Nestle stated, “All our information is available on our website”.
Further efforts made by this publication to obtain basic information such as production traceability and corporate transparency had been circumvented once more.
Evidence from Global civil societies such as Change.org, Raise the bar campaign and documentaries such as The Dark Side of Chocolate, directed by Miki Mistrati and Roberto Ramano clearly outline serious malpractices within the cocoa industry.
Pressure is building, yet these companies refuse to provide consumers with this small moral comfort.
The Dark side of Chocolate and other documentaries alike have found evidence that children as young as seven are being kidnapped and sold for as little as €230 and forced to work up to one hundred hours a week in grotesque conditions.
All enquiries made into where and how chocolate companies source and farm these cocoa pods left a lack of clarity and accountability.
Are these companies currently using child slave labour to process chocolate? If this is not the case, why isn’t there information providing transparency and production lines?
Enquires made to Hershey chocolate company was also met with a continuous ream of public relations orientated waffle. Where does Hershey’s source its cocoa beans?
This question was blatantly avoided over and over again, the company opting to send five page emails of the excellent work they do. No reply to the question.
The public refusal by Hershey’s to release information about its supply chain and production process would suggest Hershey’s cannot guarantee child labor free chocolate.
Nestlé’s cocoa plan-revealed in 2009-stated the company would be working towards displaying a fair-trade logo on all of its Cocoa products. Nestlé has added Fair-trade Kit Kat thankfully.
“Fair-trade Kit Kat involves just 1% of Nestlés cocoa purchase and Nestlé is criticised for failing to deliver on its promise to end child slavery in its cocoa supply chain by 2006” states babymilkaction.org.
A spot check conducted by this publication of location’s in Dublin, Wicklow and Carlow super markets and grocery stores has found that the vast amount of confectionary products do not display the Fair-trade logo, and in Nestlé’s case the Fair-trade logo accounted for 10 per cent of their products in any given store.
An investigation into the transparency and accuracy of the sourcing of these cocoa beans has led this publication to believe that there are serious efforts being made to distort, limit and control the flow of incriminating information needed for clarity and enhance to consumer confidence in these key areas.
According to Euromonitor the chocolate industry in Ireland is worth a staggering excess of €583 million and is expected to reach €631 million by 2015. Seasonal chocolate is worth an average of €86 million.
Ireland has the highest consumption of chocolate per capita in the world with on average 11.2 kg consumed by individuals per year. To put this into context this is the same weight as 3,385 double Decker busses – in chocolate.
Cadbury, who source their cocoa from Ghana in West Africa, announced in 2009 that all their products would be going fair trade. But unfortunately this still has not happened and Irish consumers continue to purchase Cadbury products despite little or no transparency.
Over 60 per cent of chocolate consumption in Ireland is a product owned by Cadbury. It is important consumers in Ireland take issues of this nature seriously, after all who would want to be associated with child labour, or supporting it through the purchase these products?