Tis the season for chocolate. Between Valentine’s and Easter, we’re practically made of the stuff. For several years, I’ve asked readers to boycott Hershey’s—the biggest chocolate manufacturer in America—because of delays in implementing third-party certification to reduce the prevalence of child labor, forced labor, child trafficking and verbal, physical and sexual harassment in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, where the company sources its cocoa. I even published candy guides to help parents navigate away from companies like Nestle, which phased out artificial food additives in their European confectionary line three years ago, but have yet to make the same move here in America. (Oh, and bottled California’s water without remorse during the drought.) Until recently, I had no idea that there was so much choice when it comes to conscious chocolate! From fair trade to organic to—yes—even vegan chocolate, this candy has come a long way, baby.
Fair Trade Chocolate
I had no idea there was so much choice when it comes to conscious chocolate! From fair trade to organic to vegan chocolate, candy has come a long way, baby. There’s a dirty little secret behind mass-produced chocolate: The U.S. State Department estimates that more than 100,000 children work on the African farms where most cocoa is cultivated, and that 10,000 of those are victims of human trafficking and enslavement. To combat this problem, fair trade manufacturers like Equal Exchange, which makes seasonal, blue-foil wrapped Organic Dark Chocolate Eggs that are perfect for basket stuffing, forge economic partnerships in impoverished countries that can alleviate poverty, reduce inequality, and create opportunities for farmers and artists—especially women, who produce 76% of fair trade goods.
Fair trade cocoa growers also eschew pesticides like lindane, which was historically used on cacao crops and is now globally banned from use in agriculture because of its potent neurotoxicity. Like Equal Exchange, many fair trade manufacturers go the extra mile to source USDA Certified Organic cocoa—which is certified to eschew pesticides and insecticides, as well as artificial flavors, colors and additives—for their confections. But is it vegan chocolate? Not exactly.
The fact is, even dark chocolate can contain animal products. Vegan chocolate makers like Canadian-based PASCHA and the English Moo Free chocolate company, which crafts traditional hollow oversized Easter eggs that just happen to be organic, gluten-free, dairy-free, wheat-free, lactose-free and—yes—vegan chocolate.
P.S. Are you making a sweet treat for a spring dinner party? Check out the super-easy, no-bake chocolate mousse recipe I discovered. What’s your favorite recipe? Please tell me about it in comments below. Thanks!
Photo: Equal Exchange