Today I am going to talk about one of our favorite treats - Theobroma Cacao which actually translates to Food of the Gods - also known as chocolate.
Whether it’s a Valentine’s gift, a pacifying bribe for a child or a special treat just because we are having a bad day, for many of us, eating chocolate feels like food for our soul. Some even claim the rich brown delicacy to be better than sex. But seriously though lol, one thing for sure is that even though we consume 8 million tons of chocolate yearly, we know very little about this treasured treat.
Our love affair with chocolate began thousands of years ago in the form of a bitter drink called xocoatl in present-day Mexico. They believed it to be an aphrodisiac containing mystical properties and was reserved for the elite. For a time, it was even used as a currency and counterfeiting the pods with clay look-a-likes was a booming business. Chocolate, they way we know it didn't come until much later when sugar and flavorings were added in the 1500’s, next the Dutch invented a cocoa press and finally in 1847, Joseph Fry was the first to give us the familiar chocolate bar. Companies like Lindt, Cadbury and Hersheys brought the sweet treats to the masses and continue to do so today.
And now for the bad news-sorry to do this - but the next time you grab a Kit Kat, a box of Coco Puffs or a bottle of your favorite chocolate Vodka, I would like you to Consider This…
In many of Africa’s poorest regions tens of thousands of children as young as five are kidnapped or sold by their parents for as little as $30 to traffickers, who then sell them to one of the many cacao plantations, located in Western African countries like Nigeria and the Ivory Coast. Most are never paid and many never see their families again. While enslaved, the children are beaten, injured, over-worked, exposed to pesticides and deprived of an education. The top players in the game; Mars, Nestle and Hershey all deny supporting these practices, but because about 70% of all chocolate comes from these African countries, it is difficult to believe they don't know that the chocolate they sell has been touched by the hands of a child slave. A recently freed African slave, Drissa, had a message for people who eat chocolate from his country, “When people eat chocolate, they are eating my flesh”.
If that isn’t enough to stop you from grabbing that bag of chocolate chip cookies, you might want to Consider This…
Most of the chocolate we eat contains very little cacao and more ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, GMO’s in the form of soy lecithin and all of the corn products, artificial colors, PGPR’s and TBHQ’s – you seriously don’t want to know, and palm oils (an ingredient that should enrage us all!) Palm oil production causes the destruction of rain forests resulting in a serious threat to the environment and to the elephants, tigers, rhinos and orangutans that live there.
Now for some good news. We all have choices! We can give up chocolate altogether – just kidding!! Seriously though, there is a ton of chocolate out there that is ethically sourced. There are vegan and organic products everywhere you turn. I get mine from the bulk food stores and from my local grocery store. A quick Google search can find you lists of companies and products that have great ingredients and do not support child trafficking. Sjaak's is one we really like. Also remember to use social media and let companies like Nestle, Mars, Kraft and the others know that we do not want chocolate sourced from countries that use child labor. I personally have chosen not to purchase any products from these companies. There are even apps out there that will help you to avoid buying from companies you wish to boycott. This one works well.
Understanding where and how products get to our shopping carts is key to cleaning up our food supply! Most importantly, we really need to understand that we have all of the power. When we speak with our dollars, they will either listen to us or they will disappear! Knowledge is our power and ignorance is theirs.