First the good news. A recent report in the British Medical Journal found that chocolate, especially dark chocolate, may help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Five different studies saw a positive link between higher consumption of chocolate and lower risks of several diseases.
More than one hundred thousand people were involved, consuming all types of chocolate- drinks, candy bars, etc.. People consuming more than seven and a half grams daily had their risk of heart disease reduced by thirty-seven percent compared with those eating the least! Stroke risk was reduced by twenty-nine percent, and seemingly thirty-one percent lowered their risk of diabetes.
Of course no-one is suggesting that unlimited chocolate will make you healthy. Unfortunately the most commonly available forms of chocolate are loaded with calories, contributing significantly to obesity. The report makes a point of citing the dangers of the diseases associated with weight gain, and suggests more research determining what the active disease fighting ingredients in chocolate are. So they can put it in a pill, maybe? They don’t seem to have considered chocolate’s ability to alter mood, that may assist in fighting disease on an emotional and psychological level.
In the meantime can we feel just a bit less guilty about our chocolate habit? No. Not yet, anyway. Have you ever considered how the cocoa in your chocolate got there? That’s the bad news.
As many as fifteen thousand child slaves work on cocoa farms in West Africa, growing up to forty percent of the world’s cocoa. The numbers may be small when compared to the estimated twenty-seven million slaves world-wide, but keep in mind the fifteen thousand are children age twelve to sixteen. There are rumors of younger.
The conditions under which they work are inhumane they are provided only starvation level subsistence, no education or even play, beatings are common, health care non-existent, there have been reports of deaths- which concerns the slave owners little. To replace a slave only costs about ninety dollars.
There is economic incentive for cocoa farmers to rely on the slave trade. Although the United States alone spends more than thirteen billion dollars on cocoa products each year, most of the world’s cocoa farmers are impoverished, the majority of the money going to manufacturers and processors. Under such conditions slave labor becomes a way of staying in business.
There is hope, however. The Fair Trade movement has led the way in encouraging the industry to pay farmers and laborers more for their products, to significantly improve the local communities, while negatively impacting the slave trade. The suppliers and manufacturers can then label their product ‘Fair Trade certified’ letting consumers know their product didn’t involve exploitation. So far, at least, this seems to be working.
So how do you find guilt-free chocolate? Stop Chocolate Slavery has a list of products and where to find them, as well as other useful information and links.