Belgian chocolate makers attacked over child slavery

Expatica, 29 September 2005

BRUSSELS—Belgium's world-renowned chocolate could be linked to the murky world of child labour and slavery, according to a leading consumer watchdog.

Belgium's Test-Achats warned on Thursday that it was often unclear where chocolate-makers got their cocoa beans from and whether their suppliers treated their workers ethically.

The companies don't like us tackling the social and environmental aspects of their responsibility, stated Test-Achats' report.

The consumer body advised shoppers to favour the chocolate of makes which make more effort than others, adding this was a way of putting pressure on the market. It cited Oxfam's fair trade chocolate as an example.

On the positive side for Belgian chocolate, Test-Achats said it had examined 26 chocolate products from 20 different companies and found none of them were mixing other fats into the cocoa butter.

Under a European agreement introduced in 2000, chocolate makers may add up to five percent of other fats, like vegetable, as long as they say so in the ingredients.

British confectioners battled for 27 years to defend their way of making chocolate like Wispa, Crunchies, Flake and Dairy Milk, but their Belgian rivals have always claimed only chocolate using pure cocoa butter is true chocolate.

Test-Achats, though, suggested customers should be cautious about associating a high content of cocoa butter with quality.

Although it's often used to sell chocolate, a high cocoa content isn't necessarily a sign of quality, said the report. Neither is the average price per kilo which varies drastically (from EUR 3.45/kg to EUR 24.88.

What's more, given the extremely low price of cocoa on the international markets, there's no economic interest in replacing it.