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 labor.

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 cocoa-farming.

The professor will be posting journal entries on a blog (Web log) throughout his trip to the Ivory Coast at www.hopeandfairness.blogspot.com

Media Contact: Teresa Hendrix, (805) 756-7266, thendrix@calpoly.edu


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