By now everyone should know that eating chocolate is actually not a health risk as long as it is not the high sugar content version put out by the big confectionery companies. 72% and above, and limited to a couple of squares a day (or scoff a block on Saturday nights while watching re-runs of Iron Chef) is positively healthy.
The main thing is that all chocolate is grown in the third World and Developing Nations and you need to be careful when buying to make sure that farmers and harvesters are getting their fair share of the profits.
Check out Choclate Bar. This is a terrific brand of chocolate I discovered – it tastes excellent (not like copha and other grease as most do) AND it is ethical. The company is also proactive in saving endangered species. Did you know that there are over 51,000 endangered species world wide at present and that includes the many thousands of plants dying out. This is an urgent problem requiring immediate attention.
Always look for the Fair-trade logo on foods such as coffee, chocolate, rice, fish sauce and other specialty foods grown in the tropics. This is a guarantee that the growers and pickers are not being ripped off and that growing practices are sustainable, not slash and burn. There is a complete list of Fair-Trade items available in Australia and New Zealand here.
More concerning is the practice of child slavery in West Africa, especially Côte d’Ivoire where children are kidnapped and set to work picking chocolate. Only by purchasing Fairtrade products exclusively can large confectionery companies put some pressure on farmers to have this dreadful situation removed. Australians are amongst the largest consumers per capita of chocolate and it wouldn’t take much to start a large campaign ending child slavery in the coffee, cashew, and chocolate industries. It all starts in the supermarket. Buy only the brands that carry a Fairtrade logo and if your favourite brand doesn’t have a logo, write to the company and ask why.
Picking chocolate is a precise art, the large, cacao beans needing to be slashed off with a machete but in such as way that the tree re-sprouts leaves and new branches. The picking is ongoing pruning with harvest every couple of weeks. This is a really intriguing site explaining the growing, picking, fermentation and processing cycle.
There are many companies (such as Melbourne based Jasper coffee selling Timorese Femina coffee picked by women) that support Fairtrade. Hunt for them in your supermarket and if they are not there, demand their inclusion on the shelves!