As you stock up on sweets for your local trick-or-treaters, make sure no child was put at risk to produce the chocolates you hand out.
According to Stop the Traffick, an anti-trafficking group, 1.8 million children are subjected to backbreaking labor on West African cocoa farms, from which 70 percent of the world's chocolate derives. Kids are taken from their parents with promises of honest work and money for their family and then forced to endure harsh labor and physical abuse, according to a 2001 exposé.
"The beatings were a part of my life," Aly Diabate, a freed slave from Mali, said. "Anytime they loaded you with bags and you fell while carrying them, nobody helped you. Instead, they beat you and beat you until you picked it up again."
While Halloween candy sales are expected to hit $32 billion this year (up from $24.7 billion in 2007), according to the Chicago Tribune, the holiday is just as big an opportunity for revelers to take a major stand against the chocolate companies that enable child slavery.
Click through the slideshow below to learn how you can buy conflict-free chocolate and fight to put an end to child slavery in the cocoa industry.
Slave Free Chocolate, a coalition that's working to end child slavery on West African cocoa farms, investigates the companies that have ethical production practices, and offers consumers a list of brands to buy without hesitation.
If the label indicates that the chocolate is organic or fair trade, then slaves likely had nothing to do with it, according to Slave Free Chocolate. "There are no organic growing techniques, capability, or much interest in West Africa or the Ivory Coast or Ghana," Gene Tanski, a supply chain expert and CEO of Demand Foresight, told CNN.
"If it comes from Africa, there is most likely slave labor involved," Tanski told CNN. If it comes from South America or Asia, chances are that there is not."
Cadbury has committed to ending forced child labor by selling fair trade chocolate in the UK and Canada, but it hasn't yet brought those sweets to the U.S. because Hershey controls its manufacturing and purchasing in this country. Encourage Hershey to let Cadbury to bring its ethical practices to the U.S. by signing the petition that asks the company to "raise the bar."
According to Stop The Traffik, 1.8 million children are being forced to perform backbreaking labor on cocoa farms in West Africa. To protect these children, sign the organization's petition urging governments to inspect companies' supply chains, bring legal action against traffickers and establish an independent body that monitors the chocolate industry.