Conflict Foods: Chocolate & Sugar

Ethical chocolate

Allow me to profess my imperfection.

This ethically sourced basket feels a little wrong with this candy.

Last weekend we went to a local event where they were handing out candy. While we did great at avoiding trash, I didn’t have it in me to totally say no to the candy. I remember when I was younger, Halloween was my favorite holiday. Honestly, the candy was only a small part of the excitement, but I remember bringing home pounds of it as a child. We went trick or treating around the neighborhood from house to house. The good houses gave out full chocolate bars. Anyone else remember those days? Yeah me too. So when the time came for my kid to shout “trick or treat”

Well, I didn’t want to spoil the fun.

I knew there were only a few stops handing out candy. Besides, “I’ll just try to avoid the chocolate,” I thought to myself. Well, that would be difficult since I wasn’t the one saying trick or treat… and I didn’t want to helicopter mom all over it. Not only that, but the trash and the chocolate aren’t even the only culprits, What about the sugar?

ethical chocolate

If a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down, then what stops the child labor?

As if we needed another reason not to eat the sugar. Unlike coffee and cocoa, sugar hasn’t sparked much fairtrade controversy, yet.

Both Sugar and cocoa are rife with conflict. A Labor Department reported more than 2 million children in dangerous labor in the cocoa-growing regions of West Africa — where about two-thirds of the world’s cocoa supply is grown. Two decades ago the cocoa industry’s biggest companies pledged to eradicate child labor in their supply chains. Yet much of the candy that we see today still starts with child labor.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that in the Pilipines 2.4 million children work on the largest sugarcane farms and 60% work in hazardous conditions.

While companies have pledged to eradicate child labor, it’s difficult to identify the farms or whether child labor was used in production.

Simply boycotting won’t help if we don’t speak up. Here are ideas on how to take action.

Take Action

Check out Slave Free Chocolate for printable reverse trick or treat cards, letter writing ideas, and other organizations to support.

Read these Student letters about chocolate and child labor

Here is a list of ethical candy makers that you can buy from though they may not be package-free.


Here’s another interesting read I came apon while researching this topic: The myth of poisoned Halloween candy

Where did the myth of poisened candy start? Here’s the history


You’ll be relieved to find out that I had planned to include cinnamon on this list of conflict foods, but it’s relatively conflict-free. Though, very interesting to learn about.




The US Department of Labor most recent ‘List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor‘ features two new countries in respect to sugarcane: Cambodia and Vietnam.

Is it possible to bag ethical sugar?

An Investigation into the Labour Practices of Sugarcane

Nestlé Cocoa Plan

Hershey’s Cocoa for Good

Mars’Sustainable In A Generation Plan 

Cocoa’s child laborers

Work and health conditions of sugar cane workers in Brazil

Life not sweet for Philippines’ sugar cane child workers

Child Labor in Your Chocolate? Check Our Chocolate Scorecard

Leave a Comment

Join for our Monthly Newsletter and Occasional Updates