Chocolate-sweet bitter truths

Did you see the Four Corners program this week?

A journalist posing as a cocoa bean trader, discovered that children are still being used as slaves to harvest cocoa in western Africa, where most of the world’s cocoa is grown.

Many of you know about my enduring love of high quality, dark, glossy chocolate, and that I happily prescribe two little squares a day. The sheer luxury, yummy sensual pleasure, and the known health benefits of high grade, well-made chocolate are reason enough to enjoy this wonderful food.

So what makes a health-ful chocolate?

You’ll want chocolates which are darker, or noir, with 65% or more of cocoa mass. You’ll also need to be wary of chocolate made with ‘vegetable oil’, as there is a dreadful inevitability that this will be cheap and nasty palm oil. It’s perfectly okay to enjoy two little squares of darker ‘real’ chocolate a day, even if it contains butterfat, and cocoa butter is just the thing for added smoothness and mouth appeal. The fat in cocoa is one of the ‘good’ fats.

Now you won’t be going crazy and eating the whole block or box, will you? That would just spoil the fun.

For an absolute treat, you can splurge and visit a shop where chocolates are handmade. We have such a place here in Brisbane, on Wickham Terrace, just a couple of doors down from my old clinic. Entering that place is a joy, as the aroma is warm and sweet, and well… chocolatey. I especially love that this little part of heaven is located in the heart of our Medical Specialist’s district!

But getting back to child labour and enslavement and poverty.The Four Corners program was distressing. I’m a Mum, and seeing children who have been spirited away to harvest cocoa in dangerous conditions – far, far away from their families –  is deeply upsetting.

What can we do? How can we continue to enjoy this extraordinary food, and harm no-one?

Firstly, look for chocolate made and distributed by Fair Trade organisations. It’s the best chance of ensuring that communities who grow and harvest cocoa are being fairly renumerated, that the income goes back to them, and that their children are allowed to have a childhood, and an education.

Secondly, read food labels. Read labels on every food you buy. It’s our right as consumers and as human beings to know what is in our food, and how it is produced.

Visit the ABC Four Corners site here, for a summary of the program, responses, and related links. You can also watch it on iView for a limited time.

If what you see upsets you, why not write to chocolate-makers, and let them know how you feel?

Not up for a letter-writing campaign? That’s okay. All you need to do is start buying high quality, Fair Trade chocolate. It’s the easiest way to ‘be the change you want to see in the world’.

Change begins with people like you and me.

Here’s one company whose products and philosophy sit well with me. I have no commercial interest in them, and they’ve never heard of me; I found them via a simple online search for fair trade chocolate.


And then, there’s always OXFAM

Already a Fair Trade chocolate lover?  Tell us your favourites! We’d love to know which brands you like, whether they contain ‘vegetable oil’ or not, and where you buy them. Leave a comment – below.

To learn more about the scientifically validated benefits of good chocolate, you can read Choc treatment over at


Cautions & Care: This article is for your information, and is not intended to replace proper medical care and assessment. If you have a concern about your physical or mental health, please consult an appropriately qualified and experienced health professional.

Words: © Margi Macdonald

Images top-bottom:

Belgian chocolates. Chocolate shop Antwerpen, Belgium by Frank Wouters. Reproduced under Creative Comons attribution Generic 2.0 License. Source- Wikimedia Commons

Cocoa pods:  by Medcaster. Public domain. Source-Wikimedia Commons.


2 thoughts on “Chocolate-sweet bitter truths

Add yours

    1. Good to hear from you David.
      What a bunch of global citizens we are – Missouri, USA; Brisbane, Australia; and Fair Trade chocolates from all-over!
      Thanks for stopping by.

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