Like most people, I love the sweet, earthy taste of good chocolate. From chocolate chip pancakes to brownies, I consume chocolate quite often. However, I never considered the sourcing of my chocolate until recently. I always took the nestle semisweet chocolate chip bags on the grocery store shelf for granted and did not think about who was behind the production of them. It was not until I watched the documentary, The Dark Side of Chocolate, that I realized the horrors of the cocoa trade in the Ivory Coast and my complicity in buying these goods.
The documentary The Dark Side of Chocolate studies child trafficking and the slave trade in the chocolate industry. In the documentary, journalist Miki Mistrati travels to the Ivory Coast to investigate underground workings of the chocolate industry. The Ivory Coast produces around 60% of the world’s cocoa, and it is where major suppliers like Nestle, Hershey, and Mars get most of their raw materials from. Mistrati utilized hidden cameras and revealed the abundance of child exploitation on cacao farms. He found that many children were lured away from their home with the promise of a paying job, only to be held hostage on a farm far from their family. However, other children were simply kidnapped from the streets of their village. These children are then held hostage, risking their health and life under the harsh conditions of the cocoa farms.
Throughout the documentary, Mistrati interviewed government leaders in the Ivory Coast region and the head members of leading chocolate corporations. Shockingly these people feigned ignorance and claimed there either was no problem or that everything was under control. Despite, international labor laws prohibiting child labor, many chocolate corporations are aware that their raw cocoa is the result of child labor. They just choose to look the other way. In 2001, the top eight cholate corporations signed an agreement to fight child labor and slavery in the cocoa production, however, they have done little to actually put an end to this cycle. In fact, when Mistrati talked to head members of these corporations, they adamantly claimed there was zero child trafficking, despite having knowledge of child slavery. Until Mistrati showed them evidence, they refused to admit they were aware. Even once the documentary was filmed, companies like Nestle and Hershey refused to watch it or show it to their employees, further underscoring the involvement of these corporations in child trafficking.
I highly encourage people to watch this documentary and educate themselves on cocoa trade. The use of child slaves in the cocoa industry is extremely widespread, and it continues to this day. Even after watching this documentary, I am continuing to educate myself on the cocoa trade, and I now look for fair trade labels on the chocolate I buy. I strive to buy ethically sourced chocolate, and I do research on the brands I buy from by using the Global Slavery Index and U.S. Department of Labor resources.