Saying "No" to Slave Chocolate this Halloween

No chocolate this year

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By David Hammond

Around this time of year, walk down the aisles of any local grocery store, and you'll see bags of relatively cheap chocolate candy from all the familiar companies, Mars, Hershey's and so on.

We like to give trick-or-treaters some options, and we've found that every year at least one hundred kids or so prefer to go with individually packaged bags of herbal tea (I tell kiddies it pairs well with candy, which it does, and we caution them to have their mom or dad help them make it).

We also know, though, that mini Snickers, Milky Ways and Hershey's kisses are immediately recognizable, comfortably familiar, and pretty much what a lot of kids think they want. Our guess is that you probably feel the same way and so, like us, you probably have purchased those big, relatively inexpensive bags of little candy bars. 

There is also the belief among some – like -- that a large percentage of these children are, not to put too fine a point on it, slaves.

There are a lot of imponderables here, not the least of which is that in less developed countries, families rely on all family members to work, so young boys are just fulfilling cultural expectations – and helping their families survive – by grabbing a machete and going out to harvest cocoa.

Big chocolate companies, being big companies, are probably doing their best to be as good as they can afford to be and still turn as big a profit as possible. Even the bigger companies, however, don't deny that some of their raw materials are probably, at the very least, the result of children working in hazardous situations, sometimes against their will, in Africa.  It's complicated. So what's to be done?

Well, you can buy your chocolate from companies that seem to be uninvolved with forced labor and that maybe source their cocoa from parts of the world where there's more oversight. Of course, a lot of those chocolates are considered "premium" – from places like the newly opened and excellent Burdick's in Chicago  – are not only very expensive but they're usually not available in single-serving sizes appropriate for trick-or-treaters. I called Burdick's, and they do have some single-serving chocolate pieces, for over $3 each, putting them out of reach of most.

Of course, there are lots of candies that are not made of chocolate -- Smarties, Jelly Bellies, etc. – so those are the candies we're giving away this Halloween.

Halloween is probably my favorite holiday, and I dig seeing little kids get dressed up and come by to collect some small treat. I don't want to think, though, that their fun, and ours, is built, even if only in part, on the suffering of other kids somewhere else in the world. So this year, there will be no chocolate candy, but there will be non-chocolate candy and there will be herbal tea, lots of herbal tea.

Happy Halloween!

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