A BBC Watchdog program aired on Wednesday slammed Fairtrade logo rules as “misleading” as it allows a mixture of uncertified beans in the final product.
Fairtrade conducts audits on cocoa farms to ensure fair conditions for farmers and to stamp out child labor.
Eileen Maybin, head of media relations for Fairtrade UK, told ConfectioneryNews.com that when a chocolate manufacturer produces a Fairtrade product it must buy enough Fairtrade cocoa beans to manufacture the entire product line.
For example, If Nestlé uses 4,000 tons of cocoa beans to produce 4 finger KitKats, it must purchase 4,000 tons of Fairtrade cocoa to be able to carry the organization’s logo including an additional $200 Fairtrade Premium per ton.
However, these beans can become mixed at ports and at other stages in the supply chain, so a chocolate bar labeled Fairtrade may not necessarily use 100% Fairtrade cocoa.
Asked why Fairtrade had no rule requiring manufacturers to keep all certified beans together, Maybin said: “They tell us that that would require millions of pounds of investment in machinery. It’s a practical issue.”
“At harvest time farmers’ co-operatives and local traders collect and deliver thousands of tons of cocoa beans to warehouses in ports where they are stored awaiting export processing prior to shipping.”
Often the warehouses don’t have the capacity or facilities to separate beans and ensure traceability, and the beans can get mixed in the shipping and manufacture.”
Maybin said that consumers were understandably surprised to hear Fairtrade cocoa beans can be mixed with non-Fairtrade beans, but were frequently supportive when they understand why it happens.
“It’s not like organic. When you buy a Fairtrade product you want to know the benefits go back to the farmer,” she said.
Fairtrade UK said in release that it was better to engage with the chocolate industry than to lose out on Fairtrade sales opportunities for thousands of small farmers.
“Unfortunately we had very little time in the Watchdog program to explain the complex background to the decisions we have taken to bring Fairtrade chocolate into the mainstream market,” said Maybin.