Friday, May 27, 2011

Understanding Food Empowerment Project’s Chocolate list

Understanding Food Empowerment Project’s Chocolate List

Food Empowerment Project publishes a list of companies that sell chocolates that we do and do not recommend. To make our list they have to make some vegan chocolates.

  1. To help people buy chocolate that does not involve the exploitation of human (children or adults) or non-human animals (such as cows and goats).
  2. To make sure consumers are informed about where companies stand on the issue.
  3. To encourage consumers to contact the companies and let them know how they feel!
Any companies that wish to change suppliers are provided with a list of wholesalers that make chocolate we do recommend.

Understanding our list

The list is made up of several categories:

Chocolate we feel comfortable recommending.
The first category is pretty simple. These are companies that make some (if not all) vegan chocolates. They have responded to our request for information about the country of origin for their cacao beans, and the beans were not sourced from areas in Western Africa where child labor and slavery is pervasive. If they source from Western Africa, they are worker-owned cooperatives and have been vetted by us.

Recommended - Giving them the benefit of the doubt
These are companies that are sourcing in Ghana but have created programs and are trying to do things in the most ethical way. We will be keeping you informed on their progress, but for now, we want to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Cannot recommend
These are companies that we know have been implicated in sourcing their cacao from farms located in areas where child labor and slavery are most pervasive.

Cannot recommend but are working on the issues in various ways.
These are companies that responded to our request for information and are either under a particular certification, such as organic, and/or have indicated to us that they are aware of the slavery issue and care enough to work on it, but, unfortunately, their chocolate still comes from non-worker owned cooperatives in Western Africa.

They are currently buying chocolate with the intention of not participating in child labor and slavery, but since they source from areas where the worst forms of child labor, including slavery are the most prevalent, we are not comfortable recommending them due to problems with various certifications.
Some of the companies that are using fair trade chocolate are not necessarily going to change suppliers, but they can be considered “informed” companies trying to do their part.

If they are using fair trade chocolate, then why aren’t they listed on our recommended list? It is unfortunate, but there has been child labor found at fair trade cooperatives; to their credit they did get the children into school.

The fact that child labor was found on these “certified” farms gives us reason to be concerned; therefore, we do not feel comfortable recommending them at this time. We acknowledge this might change, but for now, this is how they rank on our list.

Companies that are working with us to change suppliers are not listed.

Cannot recommend but at least responded.
We list the companies that responded honestly but don’t make our list as they source from areas where the worst forms of child labor, including slavery, are the most pervasive.

Cannot recommend: companies that would not disclose their supplier (no transparency for customers)
Not disclosing where their chocolate is sourced from is really no different than those companies that did not respond at all. We do not ask for supplier contacts; we simply ask from which country they get their cacao beans. Wanting to hide the information is an insult to consumers who care about this issue.

Cannot recommend: companies that did not respond.
As simple as that. They did not respond to our request. We encourage consumers to reach out to their favorite company if they see them listed here.

How do we contact the companies?
Food Empowerment Project emails the companies requesting where they get their cacao beans. If there is no response, another email is sent after two weeks – forwarding the original request. After another week passes, the two reminders are sent again, this time with a link to our list, letting them know they will go on our non-response list if we do not hear back. After a week with no response, we put them on our website. If the response is “Switzerland,” “USA” or some other non-cacao-producing country known for its chocolate, another email is sent reminding them we are talking about the beans, not the chocolate.

We attempt to update our list (which is also available as an app) once a month.

We encourage people from all over the globe to send us the names of companies that make vegan chocolate products that are not already on our list; we will look into the company to see where they should be placed on our list.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Eating healthy is a disorder?

Last week some articles posted on the internet explored new eating disorders. I always try to have a glance at these just to see if any pro-animal ag person brings up vegetarianism or veganism as they have in the past.

I was pleased to see that none of them did; however, there was a term I found pretty troublesome: Orthorexia nervosa. Why did it bother me? Partly because most of my friends, myself included, have some measure of this disorder. I worried for them and for me.

And yes, I am being sarcastic.

According to the simplest definition: “What is orthorexia? Identified in 1997 by Colorado physician Steven Bratman, MD, orthorexia is Latin for ‘correct eating.’ Here, too, the focus isn’t on losing weight. Instead, sufferers increasingly restrict their diets to foods they consider pure, natural and healthful. Some researchers say that orthorexia may combine a touch of obsessive compulsive disorder with anxiety and warn that severely limited ‘healthy’ diets may be a stepping stone to anorexia nervosa, the most severe -- and potentially life-threatening -- eating disorder.”

Yup, they said it: healthful eating: -- it isn’t even about losing weight!

But here is the worst part – what they eat:

  • Orthorexics: Those affected may start by eliminating processed foods, anything with artificial colorings or flavorings as well as foods that have come into contact with pesticides. Beyond that, orthorexics may also shun caffeine, alcohol, sugar, salt, wheat and dairy foods. Some limit themselves to raw foods.

Hmmm….now, I can’t completely fit in that category, but, umm….not eating processed foods. Really? I believe it is pretty much universal that we know that eating processed foods is a huge problem with our diets today.

And what? They don’t want to consume chemicals? Now I am sure the chemical industry finds this outrageous and a definite affront to how people in this country should be eating.

I mean, if people who are trying to eat healthy are called Orthorexics, than what are most people in the U.S. called? There is no disorder related to people who consume processed foods, eat at McDonald’s every day and dine on the bones and veins of chickens at KFC? Why is that?

I didn’t bother to look up the doctor who coined the term “Orthorexics,” but I am just absolutely shocked that any doctor would align people who are trying to improve their health with some sort of eating disorder.

The good news, of course, is that this term has been around since 1997 and maybe people haven’t heard of it. The bad news is I have no idea what is happening when a 13-year-old girl who wants to eat healthy because of all that she has learned about process foods, agricultural chemicals in her foods and what happens to animals who are raised for food walks into her doctor’s office and tells her/him of this “disorder.”

Some even refer to this disorder as “righteous eating.” Umm…if that is the case, then I think Food Empowerment Project should be the poster child as we do believe in protecting the rights of those when it comes to food.

Now my understanding is that some people with obsessive compulsive disorder suffer from something like this; however, the media are not doing them or healthy eating a service with the current run of articles on this issue.

In case anyone thinks I am making this up, check out