Tag Archives: Corporations

Hershey’s Problem with The Worst Forms of Child Labor

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been trying to find the perfect analogy to a situation, and I just can’t seem to come up with one. It’s not that I have writer’s block, or that I’ve lost my creative edge. It’s just that the situation is so delicate that I wish to do everyone involved justice.

The major chocolate companies of the world have a problem on their hand, and they know it. The cheapest cocoa beans that were being sold by the cocoa commodity brokers, and were being purchased by representatives from the likes of Mars, Hershey’s, Guittard, and Archer Daniels Midland, re being grown and/or processed by children, some of whom are no better than slaves on the plantations where they toil.

Eleven years ago, the major producers signed on to the Cocoa Protocol, an international agreement signed in 2001, aimed at ending child labour in the production of cocoa. As I wrote about last year, it has been fairly clear that the major companies who signed the protocol missed their mark, in some areas by quite a large margin. Today, as you and I celebrate Valentine’s day, many of us with chocolate, children are suffering under the worst forms of child labor at cocoa plantations across Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

One of those signatories to the Protocol? Hershey’s.

Two weeks ago, to great fanfare, Hershey’s announced the following:

Over the next five years, Hershey will expand and accelerate programs to improve cocoa communities by investing $10 million in West Africa and continuing to work with experts in agriculture, community development and government to achieve progress with cocoa farmers and their families. By 2017, Hershey’s public and private partnerships will directly benefit 750,000 African cocoa farmers and over two million people in cocoa communities across the region.

Many advocates and activists who works around the issues surrounding the worst forms of child labor have said a variation of the following: It’s a good first start. The reason for the couched response is two fold:

  1. Hershey’s has tied the issues surrounding the worst form of child labor with “Improving the chocolate supply”. It says so right in the press release. “LONG-TERM COMMITMENT: Hershey to invest $10 million by 2017 to reduce child labor and improve cocoa supply in West Africa.”
  2. The amount of money committed, after it’s divided up, simply isn’t a whole hell of a lot. 2 million dollars divided by 750,000 farmers for the next five years adds up to $13 per farmer. The cost of living in either Ghana or the Ivory Coast is certainly less than living in the major areas of the United States. But not to the point where $2.66 means anything substantial.

I honestly don’t want to be the cynic in this instance, because the situation is such that any money spent, long term or short, is better than nothing. But for a company whose annual sales push close to $6 Billion dollars and net income pushes 500 million dollars, a $2 million dollar per year budget seems woeful. Especially when considering that the reason they can get such high profits is due, in part, to the low labor costs.

Two weeks ago, I worked with my publisher to write a response to Hershey’s gift.

There are times when timing can be everything. Mere days before this book was to go to printing, Hershey’s had a press release that spelled out their plans to institute a long term commitment to west Africa by investing $10 million dollars in the Ivory Coast and Ghana over five years, in order to reduce child labor and improve the cocoa supply. While $2 million dollars per year doesn’t break down to a lot of money on a per farmer basis, nor does Hershey’s pledge come anywhere close to the meeting the all of the articles established in the Cocoa Protocol, it is important to point out that their offer is a good first step.

Hershey’s has gotten a fair amount of positive press from their announcement, but if their recent history is any example of what we can expect from them, then they need to be held accountable to their pledge at the end of the five years, and we should demand evidence that demonstrates a marked drop in, if not outright elimination of, the worst forms of child labor. Anything else is simply not acceptable.

Why Does Industrial Dairy dislike Raw Milk?

What is it about raw milk that makes Big Dairy’s stomach turn?

What is it about? Money – Money disguised as health concerns.

First off, let’s be clear – there are health issues surrounding unpasteurized milk. The question I have us thus – if unpasteurized milk is treated with proper diligence (proper shelf life is kept, temperature kept below 40 fegrees F), is Raw milk any more dangerouse than eggs or shellfish? No one can seem to answer that.

But back to the money – Here’s why Raw milk is not considered a viable product for the industrial dairy industry.

  • The smaller the shelf life of any product, the more tenuous the profit margin of that product.
  • To ensure the safety of the milk, it would cost money to implement both processes and equipment.
  • It would cost money to add liability insurance to cover any health episode that might occur.

I could list several other reasons, but I think the point is made.

The next question I have is this – is it in industrial dairy’s interest to keep raw milk from becoming a viable alternative? Not at the moment. The raw milk movement is unorganized and fights many laws and perceptions that are both valid and invalid.

Via Megnut

Technorati Tags: milk, raw+milk, dairy

Colas and Trade Secrets

In the discussion about copyright below, Mithrandir brought up the subject of Trade Secrets. Which is coincidental, because Coke and Pepsi are having a bit of a problem with their own trade secrets surrounding the secret recipes of their respective colas.

India’s top court asks Coca-Cola and Pepsico to disclose contents of soft drinks

India’s top court has asked Coca-Cola and Pepsi to disclose the ingredients in the soft drinks they sell here amid allegations the drinks contain high levels of pesticide.

The Supreme Court notice on Friday came days after a New Delhi-based independent research body said it found samples of Coke and Pepsi contained pesticide residue that was 24 times above the limits set by the Bureau of Indian Standards.

The Center for Science and Environment in New Delhi said it carried out tests on 57 samples taken from 11 soft drink brands made by Coca-Cola India and PepsiCo India.

Firstly, it’s unlikely (but not improbable) that the colas have that level of pesticide.

My own opinion is that this is far more politically motivated than motivated by any regard for public health.

That being said, it’s going to be interesting to see how these American companies respond for the call to their recipes. Because they would really prefer not to have these recipes get out into the public.

UPDATE: In the comments, Prasanna points out that there is likely pesticides in the colas, but not due to the cola companies. They point to a Financial Times article which concludes:

Almost any product in India, from tap water to milk, contains traces of toxins due to overuse of pesticides by farmers. This seeps into local ground water, which is used in more than 80 per cent of soft drinks.

Prasanna’s conclusions are as follows:

  1. Yes there are pesticides in all our products and the drinking water in India, which should worry us
  2. Yes the government limits for pesticide residues in our products are way to low (and haven’t developed much in the last years since the last scandal)
  3. Blaming Pepsi and Coca Cola is an anti-western populist agenda that has nothing to do with the problem. Even the study of CSE does no comparison to our traditional drinks as Tea (because normal Water in Tea or Coffee is less filtered than the one in Pepsi!)
  4. There should be a new independent study that compares comparable products!
  5. It seems to me way safer to drink Pepsi than to get a tea in India

Technorati Tags: Drink, Cola, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, India

To all Fans of Rolling Rock (pre AB)

I received this in my inbox the other day, and it seems legit (tracing back headers, verifying IP addresses, etc, etc).

If you’ve ever dreamt of being in a movie, and you’re a Rolling Rock fan, here’s your chance to shine.


I’m working on a documentary about Rolling Rock Beer and the current sale to Anheuser-Busch. We’re looking for people from all around the country who would like to go on camera for our doc and express their feeling on Rolling Rock and the sale. If you could post this info on your site and spread it around to any of your Rolling Rock drinking friends it would be greatly appreciated.

Please feel free to send any questions my way, as well.
Wade H.W. Rudolph
Production and Talent Development
One Louder Productions

tags technorati : beer documentary Rolling Rock

They get you coming and going

Nestle, the mega-international conglomerate and owners of a variety of chocolate and candy brands, has just purchased weight loss company Jenny Craig. Now you can pay Nestle as you gain weight, and as you lose it.

(thanks skip!)

tags technorati : Food Weigt Loss Nestle Jenny Craig

Sugar Highs and the Culpability of Food Companies

I’m an advocate of personal responsibility, with an asterisk.

In my mind’s eye, I picture a world where everyone becomes educated about what they put into their digestive tract, and when certain food-born ailments may perchance befall them, people would shrug their shoulders and go “That’s what I get for eating raw oysters wit a raw milk cheese appetizer”. It’s the simple ability to be able to look at a food product, assay the risk factor found within, and then make an informed consumer decision.

…and then? Then I take off my rose colored glasses and realize that here on earth, most people are too busy with everyday life to educate themselves fully on the matters of food. We willingly put our faith in the corporations to make the informed decisions for us, and provide us with healthy options. This sounds all well and good until Corporation A or Company B decide to abuse that faith and introduce items into our product line that they give the illusion are healthy, but in fact are not.

The latest product line being introduced is “Sports-Performance” jelly beans from Jelly Belly.

This is where that asterisk comes in to play.

Ever since Gatorade came onto the market, there’s been a category of products out there with allusions to “Sports” or “Energy”, giving the impression that they are the product of choice for healthy athletes, when in reality they are nothing but another vehicle in which excess sugar is delivered. Excessive, that is, unless you are actually burning the said calories that the products give you in the short term. The problem is that many of these products are aimed at “Sports enthusiasts”, which is so vague a marketing term that it could mean anyone from the long distance marathoner to the guy who follows football from his couch.

When you get right down to it, as loathe as the various companies are to admit it, Gatorade and the like ilk is nothing more than Kool-aid with electrolytes and excessive glucose or fructose. Powerbars are nothing more than candy bars, and “Sports” Jelly beans are still Jelly beans, no matter how hard they try to air brush these facts out.

Do these products provide energy? Most likely. But so does a handful of sugar cubes, and I don’t see people chomping them down on the sideline of football games.

Granted, I’m generalizing about the market and the makeup of the drinks. Undoubtedly there are energy bars and sports drinks that do help athletes and those who are active get some nutritional sustenance out of these products.

But it’s telling that the first ingredient listed on Powerade and the PowerBar is our good friend High Fructose Corn Syrup. All other issues surrounding HFCS aside, the first and primary ingredient in these types of products is sugar. How good can this possibly be?

This is why it’s not possible to exclude food companies and their responsibility when it comes to the obesity debate. For while a person can make informed decisions when they do the proper research, they can be misled into thinking a product is healthy for them by the marketers who infer the benefits of the product, when in fact it’s nothing but sugar with some vitamins attached.

Technorati Tags: Food, Sugar, Obesity, Sports Drinks, Energy Drinks

We Get Letters v. 21: The Case against Coca-Cola

Langley writes in:


Can you please help me build a case against drinking Coke? My husband LOVES the fizzy, sweet, goodness of it and drinks up to two cans a day.

It is worth mentioning before I go any further, that overall we lead a very healthy lifestyle, so Coke is really his only vice – but I’d really love him to cut back!

I have tried to tell him over and over again how bad it is for him, how it will rot his teeth, but he’s just not prepared to give it up or cut down.

Anything facts or figures you could provide me on the health hazards of drinking coke would be most appreciated.


Hi Langley, and thanks for the question and comments. However, after reading the following, I’m not sure your going to feel so gracious in return.

I could easily lay out a case against Coca-Cola and give a variety of health concerns, and I will a little further down below, but I want to address a larger issue.

First and foremost, I am a strong believer in personal responsibility. If a person has enough data to make an informed decision, then I try to respect that person’s choice. If a person likes McDonald’s, Kraft Mac & Cheese, or even Coca-Cola, more power to them.

The corporations on the other hand, these purveyors of misinformation and setters of inflated expectations, I have no problem taking a whack at now and then. If a company gives enough information for the consumer to make a decision, then they deserve our respect. If a company goes out of their way to mislead or hide information from the consumer, then I have a problem.

But back to your husband: The case against carbonated sodas is pretty straight forward. They’re empty calories and add little or nothing of nutrional value. Replacing two 12-ounce cans of sugar sweetened soda with water can cut over 350 calories per day. Over the course of a month, that equates to 10500 calories or about 3 lbs, if your to believe the numbers on this site. Multiply that by 12 and that’s 36 pounds saved in year. Not too shabby.

Then there’s the carbonic and phosphoric acids found in the sodas which don’t help a person’s teeth, and of course the High Fructose Corn Syrup, which nobody knows how it affects the majority of the population. Even if you go the cane sugar route, excessive sugar intake may cause endogenous opioid dependency (in english: a body becomes “addicted” to sugar), which possibly leads to higher insulin production, obesity and Type II diabetes.

Have I scared you yet? My apologies, because here’s some good news. Firstly, the acid versus the tooth enamel issue may not exist. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentristy found that the pH associated with Coke and Diet Coke did not reach the critical pH which is expected for enamel demineralization and dissolution. Whether you believe their results or not is probably best determined on whether your belief that Coke’s $1,000,000 grant to the AAPD biased their results.

The obesity and diabetes doesn’t happen to everyone who drinks soda. In fact, it doesn’t even happen to a great majority of people who are overweight. It does happen, don’t get me wrong. Enough so, that it’s statisically siginificant in to those who work in the health industry. But if your husband visits his doctors and dentists on a regular basis, and they find him to be healthy, then he needn’t worry about the above. However, if they suggest he cut back, then the above links should help give him reasons to stop drinking.

There’s so many other reasons not to drink Coke that have nothing to do with health, inlcuding giving huge grants to medical associations to prove that Coke doesn’t rot teeth. I realize this is a generalization, but it’s often true: a corporation that gives money for research often does so to muddy the debate on their products.

Then there’s the recent episodes surrounding Coke and its bottlers tolerating the actions of Columbian paramilitaries against their workers in order to prevent them from setting up trade unions, resulting in some of the leaders of said attempted trade unions being murdered.

This has lead to several universities to banning Coke from their campus.

You see, there are many for your husband not to drink Coke. Health is only one of them.

Technorati Tags: Food and Drink, Drink, Coke, Coca Cola