A child carrying buckets of concrete next to a colorful assortment of cocoa fruit

Representatives of chocolate industry giants could not guarantee that their confections are child-labor-free, according to a Washington Post investigation.

The same chocolate companies signed a pledge negotiated by (former) Senator Tom Harkin and (former) Representative Eliot Engel, also referred to as Cocoa Protocol. 

The Cocoa Protocol aimed to wipe out the worst forms of child labor in the growing and processing of cocoa beans.

Chocolate Giants Who Pledged to Cooperate 

Archer-Daniels-Midland Company (ADM), Barry Callebaut, Cargill, Ferrero, The Hershey Company, Kraft Foods, Mars Incorporated, and Nestlé signed the agreement in September 2001.

Nineteen years later, these chocolate companies still could not identify the farms where all their cocoa beans come from.

In addition, the chocolatiers could not even tell whether child laborers are involved in the cocoa bean production, the Post reported.

African children with buckets and baskets on their heads

Remains A Persistent Challenge Despite Efforts 

Labor Department asked the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago to conduct a survey, per the Post.

NORC conducted inquiries in Ivory Coast and Ghana, the primary cocoa-growing countries in West Africa.

Child labor rose from 31 percent to 45 percent between 2008 and 2019 in Ivory Coast and Ghana, according to the survey.

Chocolatiers’ Reactions 

Mars pledged $1 billion to a trustworthy supply strategy, per Reuters.

In addition, Mars also requested lawmakers to tackle the root causes of rampant child labor in the cocoa industry.

The child labor issue is larger than “any entity,” Mars said.

Mars said, “unwavering commitment and collaboration” among “farmers, communities, civil society, business, and the government” will solve this problem, per the Post.

On the other hand, Hershey and Nestle referred Reuters to the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) industry group.

Cargill did not even respond to a request for comment, according to Reuters.

The Expiration is Sure but Can’t Say the Same for the Efforts 

The Harkin-Engel protocol will expire next year, according to the Post.

The United States, however, is not sure whether it will still monitor the chocolate giants’ effort in reducing child labor.

Ultimately, most people will still experience “The Good Food and the Good Life.” 

“One Piece at a Time,” every chocolate bar will still bring a smile to someone’s face.

Yes, savor the taste of child labor in West Africa.


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