PCC Guarantees That Their Chocolates Comply With “International Labor Organization Fundamental Conventions”

Originally posted by Rebekah Denn on April 17, 2013—
“Hershey bars and Swiss Miss cocoa were already out at PCC Natural Markets, of course. The local cooperative focuses on natural groceries at its nine locations, and artificial flavors or high-fructose corn syrup aren’t allowed in any products.

But the standards for chocolate just got even tighter, and even some brands thought of as more “natural” or artisanal have been booted from the PCC shelves — not for inferior ingredients or flavors, but because the producers couldn’t or wouldn’t show they met new ethical standards the grocery chain adopted for chocolates and cocoas.

Vendors must now guarantee (through independent certification or affidavits) that their chocolates comply with International Labor Organization Fundamental Conventions, which “include strict prohibitions against child slave labor, as well as provisions about age, working conditions and fair wages for all workers.”

Scharffen Berger, the higher-end brand now owned by Hershey, isn’t being stocked at PCC anymore, and even Portland-based Moonstruck, known for beautifully crafted seasonal truffles and candies, was cut. (A Moonstruck spokesperson said the company’s looking into the policy and believes its commitment to source cocoa ethically exceeds the PCC standards.)

Whole Foods Market removed Scharffen Berger in the fall as well, and the chain is “currently working on a responsible sourcing standard for cocoa.”

Child slavery and labor violations have been an ongoing scandal in the chocolate industry for years. Hershey and Mars have both pledged to source cocoa that’s certified as free of those problems — by 2020. On a faster timetable, chocolate was a logical category when PCC’s quality-standards committee looked at what issues to take up next, said committee member Eli Penberthy, associate editor of the market’s Sound Consumer newsletter.

“It was something our customers would expect. If they expect that the milk doesn’t have rBGH (an artificial growth hormone) and they expect the meat was raised humanely and the seafood was sustainable, (they would expect) chocolate would meet the same ethical standard. It seemed it was time for us to step up to the plate,” Penberthy said. Market administrators believe PCC’s the first U.S. grocer to hold such requirements.”

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