If immediate response is needed, call 911. If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline 1-888-373-7888 to speak with a specially trained Anti-Trafficking Hotline Advocate.

By Shima Rostami, Ed.D., Executive Director, Gateway Human Trafficking

Halloween is a sweet holiday. According to the National Retail Federation, nearly two-thirds of Americans plan to celebrate Halloween in 2021, spending a record $10.1 billion, up from $8 billion last year (1). But, What is in your Chocolate this Halloween?

The majority of cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate, comes from the top Cocoa-Producing countries, Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire. And, did you know child labor is often used to cultivate cocoa beans? Kids are working tirelessly in cocoa production industries; many of whom are not given a choice- some are even slaves.

A recent report by the NORC at the University of Chicago (NORC) found that there are nearly 1.6 million children involved in child labor in the cocoa industry in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. NORC conducted surveys with children aged 5 to 17 on three different occasions between 2008 to 2019. During this period, they found that cocoa production increased in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire by 62 percent. While the number of child laborers remained stable in cocoa-growing households, households that grow cocoa in addition to other agricultural products, identified as agricultural households in the report, witnessed a 14 percent increase from 31 to 45 percent (2).

Washington Post reported that traffickers typically offer the children, who could be as young as 10, money or more specific incentives, such as bicycles, to take the bus to Ivory Coast. About half of those interviewed said they were not free to return home, and more than two-thirds said they experienced physical violence or threats. Most had been looking for work, and some said the money they were promised was never paid (3).

And, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation as so many kids and their families are struggling financially this year and they have to work to provide for their family.

As you head to the store to buy your Halloween candy, we urge you to consider the dark side of the chocolate industry- working children and child labor.

Do not let traffickers trick you anymore! As consumers, you can and have the power to avoid supporting unfair and unjust labor practices in the chocolate industry by purchasing from fair trade brands.


1. https://datebook.sfchronicle.com/entertainment/planning-for-halloween-2021-relish-the-normal-hope-for-the-best

2. https://foodtank.com/news/2021/02/norc-report-finds-children-are-engaged-in-child-labor-in-the-cocoa-industry-in-west-africa/

3. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/business/hershey-nestle-mars-chocolate-child-labor-west-africa/

Image: https://www.alterecofoods.com/blogs/blog/ask-more-of-your-chocolate-let-s-work-together-eradicate-slavery-from-the-cocoa-industry

More information:

Today is National Chocolate Day….Something to Think about When You Enjoy Some Chocolate