Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Scary Truth About Halloween Candy

Halloween is fast approaching.   Each year you can expect certain things to accompany Halloween: Fireworks, children dressed up as this year's most popular Disney character, sugar highs, lots of noise, and chocolate and candy sales reaching ridiculous levels.  While it can be a fun event, with lots of excitement for small children, I want to talk a little about this ridiculous amount of candy.  When I say ridiculous, I do mean ridiculous.  In the United States alone, almost 600 million pounds of candy is purchased each year at this time.1  600 MILLION POUNDS!

Not only is that worrying for health reasons, but also for economic reasons. When you go to purchase your 200 or so candy bars for the imminent trick-or-treaters, what's the first question you ask?  I'd be willing to bet it's something along the lines of "Where can I buy the most Halloween candy for the least amount of money?"

As a thrifty shopper myself, I applaud you for making smart decisions with your finances.  The problem is, you are one of millions of people who ask this question each year.  And if millions of people are looking for cheap chocolate, thousands of companies are looking for ways to sell it at the cheapest price possible, and forcing producers to make it at the cheapest price possible.  And where do they cut expenses?  Labour.

The majority of the world's cocoa production takes place in West Africa.  And the scary truth is, here it is often children who are responsible for making our chocolate.  Kids, just like the ones who will dress up as Elsa or a Stormtrooper and come knocking on your door on Halloween night, are forced to work long hours doing dangerous work, for little or no pay, just so that we can save a few bucks on our chocolate.2

But we can change this system.  I know it sounds like a lofty goal, but it's true.  You and I together have the power to change how this works.  And it's pretty simple.  All we have to do is show the big candy corporations that it's not what we want.  And how do we do that?  By purchasing candy and chocolate that is produced in an ethical way, by fully grown adults who get paid a fair wage and work in a safe environment.

Now you may be thinking: "this sounds expensive."  And I'll be honest, yes, it will be more expensive than you're used to.  But the truth is, even if you don't think so, you are rich.  In fact, there's a good chance that if you're reading this you are richer than the majority of the people in the world.  In reality, you may end up paying about $10 more for fairly traded or ethically made candy than you would for Nestle or Hershey's.  $10.  That's two less coffees this week.  One less t-shirt for your seven year-old (which was also probably made by children if it's only $10 - but we'll save that for another time.) One movie ticket. One-quarter of your family's next meal out.  Doesn't sound like a lot now, does it?

Next you may be thinking that it sounds inconvenient.  Where do we find this candy?  Well, that's why I'm here!  Here's a list of ideas to replace the chocolate you usually purchase, so that you can hand out a less scary treat this Halloween:

1. Bug Bite Squares from Endangered Species.
 These pre-wrapped mini chocolate squares are made with ethically traded and sustainably grown cocoa, and as a plus for those kids out there with allergies and dietary restrictions, are certified gluten free, kosher, and free of GMOs.  They can be found on as well.

2. Equal Exchange also does Halloween kits, with mini chocolate bars all wrapped up and ready to go.  You can find them on their website at

3. Buy something other than chocolate. Lollipops, skittles, etc.  Chocolate is by far the worst offender when if comes to slave and child labour in the candy department, so find another sugary snack to hand out to the local trick-or-treaters.

4. Go for something other than candy!  These days kids have so many allergies, and get so much sugar already, why not give them something unique?  Hand out bouncy balls, colouring pages, pencils, stickers, etc.  I'm sure their parents will thank you!

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