Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Tony Chocolonely - slave-free chocolate

Slave-free chocolate, something different from Fair Trade chocolate and a very interesting story which had been going on here in the Netherlands. Teun van der Keuken (Tony) runs a consumer programme here and a few years ago he came across information which suggested that child slaves were being used on cacao plantations in West Africa, most importnatly in Ivory Coast, where a large proportion of the world's cacao production is located. These slaves are mostly boys/young men from the neighbouring countries of Togo, Benin and Mali from where they are sold into slavery, sent to the plantations and are treated verty very badly for little food and no money. This pracrice has apparently been confirmed by UNICEF and various independent research projects.

Tony decided that he would try to create a brand of slavery-free chocolate, avoiding, in the main any cocoa beans coming from Ivory Coast and tried to launch this at the premiere of Charlie and Chocolate Factory in London in 2005, but was prevented from doing so, leading to the commercial introduction of the Tony Chocolonely chocolate bar.

Taking the campaign further, he reported himself to the police for having knowingly consumed a product which was made illegally (i.e. by child slaves). The Dutch authorities refused to prosecute, saying they had other things to do with their time. In the meantime, he managed to upset quite a few of the large chocolate makers in Europe, with one (Nestle) saying that there is no such thing as slave-free chocolate. He was also very disappointed to note that so-called Fair Trade chocolate being made and sold by Max Havelaar in Holland also included cocao shipments from Ivory Coast which could NOT be guaranteed to be slave-free.

Anyway, during the trial, he was able to produce an ex-slave, one who was fortunate enough to have been able to run away who told the story of how he was sent from Ghana to Ivory Coast as a young man of 15, sent to work in the cocao plantations and was treated very badly. However the outcome of the process was that the Dutch state would allow him to call his own chocolate slave-free but he would not be prosecuted for knowingly buying a product which had been produced illegally. A pity, as it would have represented a major challenge to the large cocoa traders and chocolate makers if they were forced to protect their consumers by avoiding cocao harvested by slaves.

However, whatever else, it was a very brave attempt and a very effective way of publicising this problem.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

As far as I know it's not true that "he would not be prosecuted for knowingly buying a product which had been produced illegally".
The court heard him and the ex-slave and will decide about the middle of April '07 whether he will be prosecuted.

17 March, 2007 00:56  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Read more about slave-free chocolate and the exploitation of children.

So shameful! I will never eat slave-produced chocolate again.

07 September, 2007 22:56  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can one be sure a chocolate is slave free, or not produced from african ingredients?

08 January, 2008 07:29  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are Slavery free producers in Africa and other parts of the World - just do an internet search on "slavery-free chocolate" or "slave-free chocolate" and you'll find some, for example one result of a search:

30 June, 2008 04:48  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see my link got trunkated, I'll try again

30 June, 2008 04:51  
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