Let's Keep Child Labor Out of Halloween Candy

Halloween candy
What's in your Halloween candy bowl?. (Photo: DrVoo [CC BY-ND 2.0]/Flickr)

We're only weeks away from Halloween, so it's time to start planning what you'll be handing to the kids who knock on the door and yell, "Trick-or-treat!"

When making your choice, you might want to consider if any child labor was used on the cocoa plantations where the various candy companies source their chocolate. According to Green America, more than 2 million children in Western Africa work in sometimes hazardous conditions on cocoa plantations, the main ingredient in chocolate.

"Child labor is a global problem, and there is a cruel irony in the fact that it is used to produce candy for other children," said Caroline Chen, social justice manager at Green America. "When shoppers hit the stores to purchase candy to hand out on Halloween, they should consider the other children of the world that are affected."

Fortunately, you don't have to research each company yourself. Green America has done the work for you with this Chocolate Scorecard, which identifies ethically sourced, certified sweets as well as gives additional information on what individual companies are doing beyond what their certifications require.

Chocolate scorecard
Green America Chocolate Scorecard. (Photo: Green America)

A letter grade is easy to interpret. (Chart courtesy of Green America)

To find out what each of those certifications means, check out What does that chocolate label mean? It takes a look at each of these major sustainability certifications and has links to their websites for even more details.

*Green & Black is one of the pioneers of providing consumers with fair trade chocolate. While it continues to have some fair trade and organic offerings, it is also moving towards sourcing chocolate using Cocoa Life, the in-house certification scheme of its parent company, Mondelez. It appears that Green & Black's sustainability commitments are tied to Mondelez's overall sustainability commitments, which we feel is not as strong as some of its competitors.

**Godiva has committed to "100% sustainable cocoa by 2020," but has not provided information about who is certifying its cocoa, nor shared any progress or plans regarding their commitment.

Some good choices

little girl, candy bar
There really are good, affordable options for sustainable chocolate to hand out on Halloween. (Photo: Kamira/Shutterstock)

One of the biggest problems you'll run into is that none of the companies with an "A" ranking make candy that's specifically meant to be handed out as Halloween candy. Some of the companies do, however, make small individually wrapped candies that could be given to trick-or-treaters.

  • Alter Eco Silk Velvet Truffles: These organic dark chocolate truffles (39 percent cocoa, so they're on the less bitter end of dark chocolate) come in individually wrapped, bite-sized pieces. ($44.99 for 60 pieces)
  • Equal Exchange Minis: Equal Exchange milk chocolate Minis are truly mini; they're about half the size of an Endangered Species Bug Bite, but they're probably the best bang for your buck from the "A" rated brands. (Currently $28 for a box of 150)

If the prices of the "A" rated treats are beyond your budget, your next best bet is to go with Mars or Néstle, at least when it comes to child labor standards. Mars produces chocolate such as M&Ms;, Dove, Twix, Snickers, Milky Way, and of course, Mars candies. Nestle produces candy such as Kit Kat, Butterfinger, Crunch, BabyRuth, 100Grand and Raisinets. All of these chocolates are widely available in mini sizes and are budget-friendly, particularly around Halloween.