Friday, March 18, 2011

How should we respond to the bitter truth about chocolate?

Most people will never watch this documentary Chocolate: The Bitter Truth. Perhaps I’m being too cynical, but I suspect most people would rather not know the truth about how their Mars bars, Kit Kats and Hershey’s kisses are produced.Chocolate The Bitter Truth child slave hershey-pure-milkchocolateChocolate is a multi-billion dollar global industry, and I’m sure they would rather not having the public knowing about the extreme poverty of West African farmers, the child labourers and the children trafficked into slavery. A decade after these chocolate companies signed a pledge to eradicate child labour, little has been done to implement it. Chocolate: The Bitter Truth highlights the continuing abuse children suffer in the production of chocolate, despite repeated promises of reform. This investigative documentary shows that the chocolate industry still supports child labour through its supply chain, that child labour is still rife in the fields and that the industry has made few moves to eradicate it or the child trafficking behind it. Now that’s truth that most people don’t want to hear. But isn’t it the kind of bitter truth to which we must respond? Isn’t this the kind of extreme injustice that should call us to action? To me the nagging question has been “How can you enjoy this chocolate bar knowing how it was produced?”

Thanks to those already participating in the discussion. (For Part 1 of the discussion and video, see Giving up chocolate for Lent, maybe for life by Ken Symes.) I invite anyone else to join the discussion by commenting below as together we aim to draft a Christian Response to the bitter truth about chocolate. Let’s continue giving our reactions to the truth we’re seeing in the documentary plus sharing other knowledge we have about the chocolate industry. And let’s begin to identify those verses of Scripture which speak to this kind of bitter truth. Before watching this video, I recommend that you grab a Kit Kat chocolate bar and then unwrap it as Paul Kenyon unwraps one at 50 seconds into this video. Eat it as you watch the children in the video eat the same Kit Kat bar. It was a big wakeup call for me.

Chocolate: The Bitter Truth is a BBC: Panorama documentary with Paul Kenyon. It was rebroadcast on CBC: The Passionate Eye with the insertion of a little Canadian insight.


  1. Hi Ken. Of course I don't like the child labour or trafficking but I am probably the last guy you want in this discussion right now because I gave nothing up for lent this year. I am however trying to focus more on reading and devotions and a healthier life style which by the way would be better if I didn't eat chocolate.

  2. Hey Gary, glad to hear from you. Please do join the discussion. Giving up chocolate for Lent is not required. I'm calling on people to help me think through, discuss and discern a Christian response to the bitter truth about chocolate. Yes, I'm fasting from chocolate, but I haven't called on anyone else to do so. This is much bigger problem than whether one individual eats chocolate or not. So keep commenting. Let us all know what you think. Did you have any idea that our chocolate bars depended on child labour, trafficking and slavery? I found it all to be very shocking and at times I'm still in total disbelief that all this can be going on more than 100 years after the global abolition of slavery!



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