Chocolate and Child Slavery

All of the information below about chocolate and child slavery is also located in my resources section in PDF form for passing out to friends and using in groups. The free PDF contains extra information on slave-free chocolate brands, practical tips for fighting against slavery in the chocolate industry, and additional resources. 

Did you know?

A huge percentage of the world’s chocolate comes from small farms in West Africa, and unfortunately, many of those farms are using child slaves – in particular, the cacao-rich country Ivory Coast.

The problem made international news in 2001, and the large chocolate companies promised to remove slavery from their supply chain by 2005, then 2008. But 2005 and 2008 came and went, without evidence of any significant changes being made. By 2010, all major chocolate companies have promised to begin moving toward slave-free chocolate. The changes, however, have been slow.


How It Happens

Child cocoa slaves – mostly boys – are trafficked into West Africa from neighboring countries. Sometimes traffickers promise the boy money, bicycles, and a chance to give their parents a better life. Sometimes the boys’ families knowingly sell them.

But the boys arrive on farms to find these promises broken. Instead of a better life, they are thrown in small huts and forced to work against their wills for no pay. They sleep on wooden planks and endure brutal beatings when the bags of beans are too heavy for their bodies’ small frames.

The cacao beans these child slaves harvest get mixed together with other beans from around the world. By the time you bite into that delicious fudge brownie, slave beans and free beans have been blended too many times to know which chocolate is tainted with the blood of child slaves.


Why It Happens

The problem has complex causes. Extreme poverty and low pay from the large chocolate companies force many farmers to cut costs to an extreme in order to survive. Corrupt government systems interfere with prosecution and determent of traffickers. And consumers demand the cheapest goods possible.

Violence has silenced the few people who research the cacao farms’ labor practices, as some journalists attempting to report on the issue have been captured and killed.

The Solution

Fortunately, the solution is much simpler than the causes, and you don’t have to be a politician, social worker or lawyer to be a part of it.

If consumers change their spending habits to reflect a hatred of the child slave trade, cacao farmers will stop trafficking young people.

That is what Fair Trade and Slave-Free chocolate can do. By buying certified Fair Trade or Slave-Free products, consumers can know that none of the chocolate they eat is coming from farms that benefit from child slavery. The more educated consumers demand a change in their chocolate’s supply chain, the more larger companies will start to pay attention and see an incentive for change.

In addition, many Fair Trade and Slave-Free brands put their profits back into the cacao farms and communities. Instead of supporting child slavery, one candy bar can support education and sustainable farming in nations where children are at a great risk of trafficking.


These chocolate companies are known to use slave-produced chocolate.

M&M Mars
Kraft:(including Cadbury, Nabisco, Toblerone)
General Mills (including Häagen Dazs)
Lindt and Sprungli (including Ghirardelli)
Unilever (including Breyer’s Ice Cream)
and others


A Note on Organics

Some chocolate companies, such as Newman’s Own Organics, use only organic chocolate in their products. Currently organic chocolate is only grown in the Central and South American regions, and not in West Africa, which makes practically all organic chocolate slave-free.

In an attempt to eat only slave-free chocolate but not give up some of their favorite products, many people have chosen to eat organic chocolate. Organic chocolate is indeed almost completely slave-free, but the benefit of eating it does not reach the Ivory Coast, and thus does not encourage farmers in West Africa to stop using child slaves. On the contrary, it might do the opposite by limiting their incomes even more.

Individual consumers should decide on their own whether to set the bar at organic chocolate or at Fair Trade or Slave-Free chocolate. Of these three options, I and many abolitionist groups encourage the consumption of slave-free chocolate from the West African region when possible.

Large companies like Nestlé will sometimes make one organic or slave-free product to help their marketing, but still sell almost entirely slave-made chocolate in their other products. This practice should be avoided whenever possible. Companies should prove a true commitment to the cause of abolition, as opposed to using the problem of child slavery solely for marketing purposes.

The Best of Slave-Free Chocolate

These three companies all sell slave-free chocolate and give portions of the proceeds back to the farming communities. They all offer chocolate bars, baking chocolate and hot cocoa, and are widely available in stores.

Divine Chocolate
A fair-trade chocolate co-op
45% owned by cacao farmers in Ghana

Equal Exchange
Partners with small farmer co-ops

Endangered Species Chocolate
Partners with Nigerian co-op,
Donates 10% of profits to Nigerian co-op villages & other partner programs

For more slave-free chocolate companies, download the full guide on the resources page.


Where to Buy Slave-Free Chocolate

Slave-free chocolate bars, baking cocoa, and hot chocolate mixes are all readily available. Wide variety at grocery stores and the growth of the internet make abolition much easier. The following locations are a good place to start, but there are many other places that sell delicious, slave-free chocolate.

Your neighborhood grocery store
Usually in a distinct section on the candy aisle
Look for the products on the previous page, or
Check for Fair Trade or Slave-Free stamps on the labels

Whole Foods, or a local organic market near you
Carries fair-trade, organic and slave-free chocolates
Find a location near you

Global Exchange
The leading online supplier of fair-trade products
Go to Global Exchange
Sells organic and fair-trade chocolate; search by product or brand
Go to

Are You a Parent, Teacher, Student, Letter-Writer, or Person of Faith?

Download the Abolitionist Guide to Chocolate and Child Slavery on the resources page for customized ideas, further resources, and a detailed contact list for writing the chocolate companies.



Learn more about the connection between chocolate and child slavery.

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