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Chocolate - The Bitter Truth about child slaves

Working undercover as a cocoa trader in West Africa, BBC journalist Paul Kenyon bought a tonne of cocoa made with child labour. He also found how easy it is to sell it into the supply chain that ends up on British High Streets.

In a documentary due to be screened to night for the broadcaster’s Panorama programme, he also helps rescue a 12-year-old boy, who has been trafficked, pick cocoa as a modern-day slave and reunites him with his mother. The investigation also found that that even chocolate sold as Fairtrade can still contain ingredients, at least partly, that come from using the worst forms of child labour. 

When it’s sitting on a UK shop shelf in a chocolate bar or Easter egg, it is very hard to trace where cocoa came from and how it was picked. The more steps it passes through, on the way from cocoa pod to dried bean to chocolate bunny, going through farmer, buyer to wholesalers, exporters, importers and manufacturers, the more likely it is that at some point, the process used the work of children who have never even tasted chocolate.

These children could have been made to sacrifice their education, work long hours with hazardous tools - such as machetes needed to chop the cocoa pods free from trees and be vulnerable to abuse. The BBC found children as young as seven, made to harvest cocoa beans for 10 hour stints when it travelled to Ivory Coast and Ghana, two of the world's biggest cocoa producers. Together, the two countries produce 60% of the world's cocoa and more than 10m people survive off the industry. Twelve year-old Ouare Fatao Kwakou, was sold to traffickers by his uncle and taken from neighbouring and impoverished Burkina Faso to work in Ghana as a cocoa picker. A year later, he had not been paid a penny – but the profits of his work have gone instead to his new cocoa masters and to the uncle who sold him.

The end buyer of the child labour beans was one of the world's biggest cocoa exporters who sell it on to several well-known high street names. The programme claims it has seen papers which show that in September 2009, the Fairtrade cocoa co-operative which supplies Cadbury and Divine was forced to suspend seven out of 33 of their cocoa farming communities in one of the major cocoa producing regions of Ghana after inspectors found they had been using child labour. The show is broadcast at 9pm tonight.

By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children