chocolate-1328083There is no substance on this planet that I love so much as chocolate. There, I said it. I am not ashamed of this fact. The taste and smell of chocolate can ground me in an instant and satisfy those small (and sometimes not so small) cravings for a little something sweet, without overindulgence (mostly). And, let’s not forget that there is some evidence that small amounts of dark chocolate can be included in a healthy diet.

For years I didn’t really think about my chocolate purchases, since I’d already switched to primarily dark chocolate found at co-ops or other generally health-oriented venues. I’d pick up whichever bar sounded good at the moment (hello, Equal Exchange Organic Mint Dark Chocolate!) and be on my merry way. In more recent years, I’ve become even more discerning with my chocolate purchases, seeking out products that are Fair Trade certified. At first, I wasn’t really certain what that meant, but I was sure it must be a good thing. I mean, ensuring that farmers and workers are treated well, fairly compensated, and engaged with an organization committed to poverty alleviation is something I want to support.

Lately, this has gone even farther for me because I recently read an article about lawsuits brought against some mainstream (not fair trade certified) chocolate producers in the USA. These lawsuits are specifically targeted at alleged use of child labor (and perhaps even slavery) in the production of chocolate — the plaintiffs claiming that they would not have purchased the chocolate had they known that children were being exploited in the production of the products. This prospect both sickens and saddens me — and further strengthens my resolve to be diligent in my chocolate purchases (who knew there could be so much to think about when buying chocolate?). Though there are several fair trade certifiers with somewhat different standards, they each outline standards specifically with regard to the use/prohibition of child labor.

I did not intend to get so far off track with regard to my love for chocolate, but for me these things are inextricably intertwined. I cannot “unknow” what I know, and I want to be sure that my purchases are not contributing to human exploitation. The good news is that there are many chocolatiers who are making delicious chocolate with fairly traded cacao products — and you can find them in our vast selection. In addition, we carry Pure 7 Chocolate from Carlisle, MA and the new Vicuna Chocolate from Peterborough, NH — both using fair trade, organic cacao in their products, with the added bonus of being producers right here in our region. So, enjoy some smooth, sublime chocolate, but choose wisely, Grasshopper.

October is Fair Trade month, intended to raise awareness about Fair Trade practices and the global marketplace. Chocolate is only one of many products for which Fair Trade makes a difference for producers. To learn more about Fair Trade standards, visit the World Fair Trade Federation and the Fair Trade Federation websites.