Organic Consumers Association

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Did You Know That the Majority of Halloween Candy Relies on Slave Labor?

Giving you reason to hand out alternative brands to this year's trick-or-treaters.

Recently Haribo, the German company known for its iridescent gummy bears, was accused of some disturbing slave labor and animal-cruelty practices, suddenly making every squeezable gummy look far from charming. While the candy company remains “shocked” at the news, every ethical consumer should pause to evaluate the inhumane labor practices buried under the labels of this nation’s most formidable candy wrappers. It also presents a chance to trick-or-treat for more socially conscious candies this year.

Accusations around Haribo come amid decades of challenges to the unethical labor standards practiced by chocolate’s largest triple threat: Hershey’s, Nestle, and Mars—the chocolatier to your Kisses, Snickers, Reese's, and virtually every other candy sold in the checkout aisle.

In 2015, a commission funded by Nestle found cases of child slavery in the cocoa fields the company sourced from. This is nearly a decade after the company first publically recognized this crisis. While Nestle’s code of conduct forbids child labor in their supply chain, the report, produced by the Fair Labor Association, still found cases wherein children worked over a year without pay and awareness of the code of conduct was low among farmers.

Hershey’s, Nestle and Mars have all been sued for using child slave labor to source cocoa. The trio has also signed the Harkin-Egel Protocol to reduce cases of child slavery, yet the Fair Labor Association shows just how much further there is to go.

Most cocoa is harvested on the Ivory Coast, while the majority of chocolate is consumed in Europe and the States. Chocolate itself is estimated to be a $110 billion industry, most of which comes from its retail value—not its labor costs. Meanwhile, it is a huge contributor to deforestation, with large sectors of protected land becoming deforested for cocoa fields. Statistics like these underline the role of consumers in contributing to the chocolate industry’s success and their chance to divest.

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