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Fairtrade defends ethical chocolate with a cocktail of uncertified cocoa

Fairtrade UK has defended rules that allow products carrying the Fairtrade logo to contain cocoa that has not been ethically sourced.

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.

Mixing beans

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.”

Misleading consumers?

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.

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3 comments (Comments are now closed)

Old News

@Tony

I think the issue isn't that it's not possible, only that it drives the costs up high enough to create an unnecessary barrier (for companies and farmers).

As a consumer, I don't much care what's in the actual package I buy... I choose Fairtrade because I want more farmers to get a better deal for their products. This doesn't affect that... in fact, it probably means more farmers can benefit.

Anyway, this is all old news. The Foundation publicized the change a couple of years ago, and I think they've had text explaining it on their website ever since.

Much ado about nothing, really.

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Posted by Johnny Rockets
19 October 2012 | 22h40

Shame on Fair Trade !!

I wonder if the press would be so understanding if the "misleading" would have come from Nestlé or Mars.

I don't hear outraged protests from the known "green" activists.

SHAME ON YOU FAIR TRADE !!!!!

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Posted by Juan Francisco Mollinedo
15 October 2012 | 19h38

Fairtrade Cocoa

The argument is spurious in that Organic Beans are kept seperate and there is a clear physical audit trail from farm to consumer. If the large manufacturers had the will, then the supply chain could accomodate seperation. The point that Fairtrade UK is chosing to ignore, is that the trust has been broken between the manufacturer and the consumer in that what they put on the label is not necessarily in the product. Labelling regulations are rightly enforced rigourously to ensure that misleading claims are not made by manufacturers, so how this has been allowed beggars my, and many other peoples belief!

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Posted by Tony Mycock
15 October 2012 | 15h13

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