October, 2022 Monthly Reflection

October 1, 2022

How Bad Can a Chocolate Pumpkin Be?

Jeanne Christensen, RSM

The Catholic Health Association has a spring campaign called “How Bad Can a Chocolate Bunny Be?”  Let’s plagiarize and ask “How bad can a chocolate pumpkin be? Or a chocolate turkey? Or a chocolate Christmas tree?”

How bad? The main ingredient in chocolate is cocoa; and when one considers the harvesting of cocoa, one must also consider the harvesters.  The U.S. Department of Labor reports millions of children are exploited by labor trafficking—working long, arduous hours for little or no pay.

Ivory Coast is the world’s leading producer of cocoa, the raw ingredient for chocolate, and is responsible for about 36 percent of global exports. The Ivorian cocoa trade is mired in the exploitation of children, war and corrupt profits for officials and western big chocolate business. It is estimated that a quarter of a million children work in hazardous conditions on Ivorian cocoa farms, in spite of a pledge by the world’s biggest chocolate companies more than seven years ago to abolish forced child labor from their supply chain.  Ghana is also a major producer of cocoa and child labor is found there as well.

The U.S. Department of Labor published their 2022 List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor.  This 116-page report includes clear and specific detail and information.  It identifies seven countries where cocoa is harvested by a child or forced labor.  These countries are Brazil, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.  To learn more, visit The Department of Labor.

One of Catholic Social Teaching’s principles, The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers, says “The economy must serve people, not the other way around.  Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation.  If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected – the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to organize and join unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.”

How can we help ensure the dignity of work and rights of workers?   We can purchase fair trade products; in the upcoming holiday seasons, when cocoa and chocolate are staples, we can purchase online or locally fair trade products from one or more of the companies listed at the end of this reflection.

By purchasing fair trade products, we avoid chocolate produced through the exploitation of child labor. Fair trade is a system of certification that aims to ensure a set of standards are met in the production and supply of a product or ingredient. For farmers and workers, fair trade means workers’ rights, safer working conditions and fairer pay. For shoppers, it means high-quality, ethically produced products. Many companies offer fair trade cocoa and chocolate, along with many other products.

It is important that we consider our own consumerism – our desire for less-expensive, easily-acquired products; and to remember those who are exploited in order to grow, harvest, produce or sell such items.  Pope Francis says: “Together with the social responsibility of businesses, there is also the social responsibility of consumers.  Every person out to have the awareness that purchasing is always a moral – and not simply an economic – act.”

For additional information:   End Slavery Now and Food is Power

If fair trade products are not available locally, they can be purchased online at any one of the following websites:

Additional information on fair trade chocolate