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Dark Chocolate: Underneath the Pleasure Zone

Dark Chocolate: Underneath the Pleasure Zone

Chocolate was first introduced into Europe through the Spanish colonial exploitation of central America. The rest of Europe caught on and the sweet chocolate drink became so popular (and prized for its sexual stimulus), the Catholic Church banned children from eating chocolate. Will this innocent bean cause you to abandon your values?

September 17, 2007 —

On occasion I like to peel back one of those thinly foiled, thickly rectangled chocolate bars and take a sheer bite of gastronomic heaven. It is pure goodness: sweet, buttery, a faint sliver of tropical fruity bitterness. I like chocolate, and I like to give chocolate on special or impromptu occasions. I’m a sucker for chocolate mint ice cream, Black Forest German chocolate cake, thick chunks of Ghirardeli Square chocolate (San Francisco). But I’m not a chocoholic. I don’t need a fix every day, though a lot of people I know do.

The Dilemma: About Children and Chocolate

When we eat chocolates, we are unwittingly engaged in the old colonial exploitation cycles of four centuries ago. The problem is still much the same: child labor or virtual slave labor used to tend and harvest the enormous tracts of cocoa plantations in west Africa, the new growing fields for cocoa.

For at least ten years human rights groups have been reporting on the mass use of child labor (9-12 years-old) in cocoa-growing regions in Africa—often correlating it to slave labor.

I have eaten probably 50 chocolate bars since 2001, unknowing that in 2001 most of the US chocolate manufactures agreed to stop using child-labor chocolate by July, 2005. They did this under the leverage that legislation would be pursued to have their products labeled “slave free.”

So far, three of the dominant chocolate makers—Hershey’s, M&M’s, Nestles—are still using cocoa from the Ivory Coast while hypocritically condemning the child labor practice. Many chocolate makers blame the families in the cocoa region for using or allowing their children to be used as virtual slaves. And they state they can’t control the labor practices of their source.

The Name of Chocolate Is Not Hershey’s

If you enjoy chocolate on occasion or are a hopeless addict, you don’t have to be part of 21st century slave labor. There is way to alter your consciousness with chocolate without bugging your conscience. Inspired by the free trade philosophy and practice that has fairly successfully reshaped the economics of other third world export crops such as coffee, a good number of small chocolate purveyors offer fantastic chocolate without the stain of child labor.

These include: Clif Bar, Cloud Nine, Dagoba Organic Chocolate, Denman Island Chocolate, Divine, Gardners Candies, Green and Black's, Kailua Candy Company, Koppers Chocolate, L.A. Burdick Chocolates, Montezuma's Chocolates, Newman's Own Organics, Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company, Rapunzel Pure Organics and The Endangered Species Chocolate Company.

So, when I get that craving for chocolate or am shopping for a chocolately gift I search out one of these chocolate makers—available in most whole foods and specialty outlets. Many have online stores.

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