Can you believe that Valentine’s Day is right around the corner? It feels like we just got done with holiday craziness! If you do the Valentine’s Day thing, you’re probably planning a date night or a gift, and there’s most likely a decadent dessert in the works. How can an ethical eater make sure that those Valentine’s Day indulgences aren’t at the expense of human rights?
Chocolate and Slavery
The chocolate industry is notorious for using forced labor, especially children, in its production. On the Ivory Coast, where much of the world’s chocolate is produced, tens of thousands of child slaves work on cocoa farms. Common brands like Hershey, M&M Mars, and Cadbury continue to source their chocolate from questionable sources in order to keep prices down.
Vanilla and Child Labor
Chocolate and slavery gets quite a bit of attention, but vanilla has its own dark side. While the vanilla industry doesn’t resort to forced labor, child labor is all too common in the vanilla-producing countries Madagascar and Uganda. Instead of attending school and playing with friends, children work long days in the fields and during peak season sometimes even have to sleep in the fields to protect the vanilla plants.
What You Can Do
Don’t want a serving of child labor or slavery in your Valentine’s Day treats? Luckily, all you have to do is some label-reading! The key to buying ethical chocolate and vanilla is making sure those ingredients are Fair Trade. You can find chocolate and vanilla desserts that are fair trade or make your own using fair trade ingredients. If your local stores don’t carry fair trade chocolate or vanilla, I’ve found a couple of sources where you can order it online:
- Amazon. Just search for “fair trade chocolate” or “fair trade vanilla.” You can find all sorts of goodness, from chocolate bars to vanilla extract that’s cruelty free.
- Frontier Natural Products Co-Op. For fair trade ingredients like vanilla beans that are harder to find, this place is a good resource.
There are lots of companies making fair trade chocolate and vanilla goodies these days. My favorite fair trade candy is probably Endangered Species Dark Chocolate Bar with Raspberries. Not only is it fair trade and totally delicious, it’s vegan to boot! What’s your favorite fair trade treat? Share away in the comments!