Campus: Cal Poly San Luis Obispo -- August 19, 2005
Cal Poly Professor Heading to Africa to Investigate
Chocolate - Slave Labor Ties
A Cal Poly Food Science professor is heading to Africa this month to study
whether the world's appetite for chocolate is fueling a market in child slave
Food Science and Nutrition Professor Tom Neuhaus, who heads the Cal Poly Chocolates
enterprise project on campus and the campus Fair Trade Club, will study the cocoa
bean industry in the Ivory Coast during his one-month trip. The West African nation
supplies 70 percent of America's cocoa beans and close to 100 percent of the
chocolate in American candy bars.
Neuhaus is taking a sabbatical during fall and winter quarters to work on the
research project. He expects to publish the results of his study on the status of
slave labor in the cocoa bean industry by March 2006. He is paying for the research
trip himself. To help finance the trip, Neuhaus is selling T-shirts and water
bottles at the Cal Poly Campus Market.
Neuhaus became interested in the plight of Ivorian cocoa farmers while teaching
food science and researching his specialty, chocolate production. Media reports
of child slave labor on West African cocoa farms began surfacing in 2000, he
notes; child slave labor on cocoa farms was the subject for the recent British
documentary film "Slavery."
In 2001, Neuhaus explains, U.S. Congress members worked with the Chocolate
Manufacturers Association (CMA), the World Cocoa Foundation and a variety of
international fair labor and trade and children's advocacy groups to develop a
plan to combat and end child slavery on cocoa bean farms. Protocols and procedures
in the plan were supposed to be in use worldwide by July 1 of this year.
"Depending on who you ask, the chocolate manufacturers or the legislators, the
plan is or is not working," Neuhaus said. "In February this year, the legislators
involved held a press conference to say that they would not be buying their wives
chocolate for Valentine's Day, because it had probably been made with cocoa beans
picked by child slaves in the Ivory Coast."
And on July 14, the International Labor Rights Fund sued several international
chocolate manufacturers in Federal District Court in Los Angeles. The suit charges
that the companies have ignored repeated and well-documented warnings regarding
the use of child labor on Ivorian cocoa farms.
Neuhaus wants to investigate the situation first-hand.
During August and September, he will meet with two certified Fair Trade Ivory
Coast cocoa-bean cooperative farms which do not use slave labor, as well as a
committee working to implement the global plan to end child slave labor in
The professor will be posting journal entries on a blog (Web log) throughout his
trip to the Ivory Coast at
Media Contact: Teresa Hendrix, (805) 756-7266,