February 20, 2009

It's like a trip to CandyLand

Yeah, baby. I'm going to the All-Candy Expo when it comes through town in May. Let's just hope I can keep my healthy eating habits going until then because I will no doubt nibble myself up about three sizes as I walk the show sampling this or that.

This year the press application was a bit more thorough than in the past. I had to tell the sponsor what I wanted out of the show (um, beside lots of chocolate). Of course, I'm always interested in candy and snack trends as they relate to kids, but this year, I also hope to find out more abut how chocolate is sourced and whether more companies are using fair trade certified farms and co-ops.

In December, I hosted a giveaway of Divine Chocolate fair trade chocolate bars at Momformation. Among the commenters was Susan Smith of the National Confectioners Association. She responded to my talk of fair trade chocolate with this:

On behalf of the chocolate/cocoa industry, I wanted to take a few minutes to address your comments.

In West Africa, there are more than two million cocoa farms – and most have children who help out as a part of the family working on them. These farmers care deeply about their children, and are working hard to give their kids a better future.

At the same time, there are issues. Too many children are being harmed in the process of helping out on the family farm.

By working with organizations such as the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), we are teaching these farmers the importance of education for their children and we are making a difference.

On July 1, 2008, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana (the world’s two largest cocoa producers) made separate announcements that they have put a certification process on child labor in place across an area that produces at least 50 percent of their cocoa. In both countries, the data collection element of the certification system has been completed and reports detailing the preliminary results of these surveys by the respective countries can be found here for Ghana and here for Cote d’Ivoire. (ed. note. links are included below, but not here.)

Too many are not attending school. But to indict non-fair trade chocolate is to indict – sight unseen – hundreds of thousands of African farming families.

It is also important to note that there is no chocolate – including fair trade – that can provide a 100% guarantee that no child was in any way harmed or exploited. One would have to monitor each and every cocoa farm on a regular basis.

We have a lot to do, but more than 70 chocolate companies, including my employer – the National Confectioners Association—are supporting organizations like WCF to make positive changes.

I encourage you to take a look at what else is being done to help cocoa farmers and their families, by visiting WorldCocoa.org or CocoaInitiative.org

Admittedly, I've only peeked at those sites so far, but the show is not until May, so I have time to dig in before I, well, dig in.

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