Fair Trade, Organic Chocolate . . . A Greener, Sweeter Treat

By now we've all gotten the message that chocolate can be good for our health. Chocolate, particularly less-processed dark chocolate, contains high levels of antioxidants and flavonoids which protect against cancer, heart disease, and other diseases. Cocoa is also high in magnesium which is good for the circulatory system and heart.

Yet, despite all these great benefits, chocolate can have some very negative consequences for the people who cultivate it and the environment.

Most of the world's cocoa comes from the Ivory Coast and Latin America. Several years ago it came to light that cocoa producers in these areas were engaging in forced child labor and trafficking. While some of the worst offenders have been shut down, the problem still persists in too many places. Even if child labor is not an issue, workers on conventional chocolate farms endure difficult, even hazardous, conditions and low wages. And in may cases, the farmers themselves receive only a fraction of what the unscrupulous middlemen make.

One way to help small, local farmers provide better working conditions and wages for their workers, as well as engage in sustainable farming practices, is to support the fair trade industry. To be certified as fair trade by the Fair Trade Federation companies must guarantee a "fair price" to producers, as well as meet rigorous, transparent social and environmental standards. The goal is to help producers in developing countries become economically self-sufficient, protect the environment and bring improved living conditions to the people of these regions. Today, consumers can purchase fair trade coffee, tea, apparel and linens, grains, flowers, fruits, honey, nuts, olive oil, and sugar, as well as chocolate. Just look for the TransFair USA Fair Trade logo. TransFair is the only third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States.

Organic chocolate is also a growing market. Chocolate certified organic uses cocoa beans and other ingredients grown without the use of herbicides, pesticides, or chemical fertilizers. Organic cocoa trees are grown under a thick canopy of rainforest vegetation. These trees filter rain and moisture down through the vegetation and provide rich organic material which falls to the forest floor below. Organic cocoa production helps ensure the health of the rainforests' ecosystems.

Fortunately, the options for organic and fair trade chocolate continue to grow, making it easier to choose chocolate that is better for the environment and for the people who cultivate it. This Halloween opt for organic, fair trade chocolate for a sweeter treat for you and your trick or treaters.

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