Many websites report that the pickers of cacao beans for chocolate are often illegal slave children, stolen from their homes, beaten every day, and not paid.

While Fairtrade labels indicate the chocolate was produced without child slavery, they are not common.

Also, the FAIRTRADE Certification Mark on a product provides consumers with the assurance that Fairtrade cocoa producers are regularly audited against the strict child labour standards that prohibit the worst form of child labour and forced (bonded) labour.

The 2001 Harkin-Engel Protocol was created to remove child slavery from the industry (voluntarily) by July 2005, but Wikipedia reports criticism that the protocol has had no effect.

My question is: Is the (non-Fairtrade-labelled) chocolate we buy today mainly produced with slaves?

  • Background to why I asked this question: I've worshipped chocolate for 30 years, and had got to the point where I exhibited signs of true addiction. When I heard the news about child slaves, I quit instantly and never went back....something I've never managed with any other food or vice. Sep 2 '15 at 7:36

Yes, almost certainly.

There is ample documentation that many of the workers in cocoa factories in Cote D'Ivoire are trafficked, which essentially means forced to labour against their will. Wikipedia has the basic facts:

In 2002, Côte d'Ivoire had 12,000 children with no relatives nearby, which suggested they were trafficked, likely from neighboring Mali, Burkina Faso and Togo. According to a 2009 snowball sampling study, the majority of those with childhood cocoa labor experience were trafficked (75% from Burkina Faso and 63% from Mali). The majority of those who were trafficked had no interaction with police, and 0.5 percent had any contact from institutions that provided social services


In 1998, UNICEF reported that Ivorian farmers used enslaved children—many from surrounding countries. A 2000 BBC documentary described child slavery on commercial cocoa farms in Côte d'Ivoire. In 2001, the US State Department estimated there were 15,000 child slaves in cocoa, cotton, and coffee farms in Côte d'Ivoire, and the Chocolate Manufacturers Association acknowledged that child slavery is used in the cocoa harvest.

Wikipedia provides references to support those statements.

As for whether the chocolate you buy is produced by these slaves, The University of British Columbia Project Terry writes:

Child labour and child slavery is a prevalent issue in Cote D’Ivoire, the top cocoa producing country in the world. 40% of all cocoa beans come from Cote D’Ivoire, which makes it almost unavoidable for companies such as Mars, Nestle, and Hershey’s to avoid having these beans in their products.

The Confectionary Industry's own newsletters acknowledge the problem. The BBC has repeated stories. New organizations from the UK and Canada have picked up the stories. The US Department of Labor considers it an issue.

In short there is an abundance of evidence for this.

  • 1
    Thanks for confirming. It doesn't look like much action is being taken on this matter, which is horrible. Sep 2 '15 at 7:34

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