By Analiese Paik
Halloween used to be pure fun. That was before I knew about sugar from GM (genetically modified) sugar beets and chocolate from sources that employ child slave labor and other inhumane practices. I supposed this is what the term “ignorance is bliss” means. I know better now, which means that each time Halloween rolls around I go through the exercise of figuring out what we’ll give out that night and what I’ll let my kids eat. If you find GM and unethically sourced candy scarier than Halloween costumes, here are some suggestions for taming your fears.
Put cheap chocolate on the “no no” list.
Child, slave and forced labor practices have long been part of the chocolate trade and they continue to this day, most notably in the Ivory Coast where enslaved children work the farms that produce most of the world’s cocoa. (see CNN’s Slavery in cocoa fields: A horrible ‘normal’). This despite the Harkin-Engel Protocol, a voluntary agreement against child, slave and forced labor signed in September 2001 by the chocolate industry. Fair and Direct Trade labels are our cues that the food is ethical. Fair Trade farmers are compensated fairly for their work, no child or slave labor is used, and farms employ sustainable growing practices. These products may cost a little more, but the payoff is priceless.
Consider skipping candy or limiting it to sustainable choices.
Organic lollipops and other non-GMO choices like tiny boxes of raisins or pretzels are fine, but that’s about it. If you’re having a party or otherwise feeling generous, those tiny squares of organic, Fair Trade chocolate are lovely. But most of us are working with budgets and won’t be give out 90 pieces of expensive chocolate. This year I found USDA Certified Organic Yummy Earth Organic Fruit Lollipops in Whole Foods and USDA Certified Organic fruit-flavored lollipops at Trader Joe’s. Annie’s Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks were nowhere to be found. That means slim pickings.
Consider alternatives to candy.
This year I’m seriously considering giving trick or treaters a choice between an organic lollipop (or two) and a dime (quarters to my close neighbors and friends). Perhaps I’ll add an organic apple to the mix. It will be an interesting science experiment at the very least. I remember getting coins and fruit in my bag as a child and not feeling cheated. Why no trinkets you ask? Because they’re all made in China and I’d rather vote green with my dollars.
Take candy from your kids.
How far will you go to prevent your kids from eating GM and unethical candy? I take it pretty seriously and start discussing it the week before Halloween to warm my kids up for the inevitable. I let them go trick-or-treating with the agreement that there will be a Good Witch exchange of the candy stash for a toy, game, book or outing of their choice. The exchange must be made in full within three days, which gives them enough time to overdose on their favorites. It winds up being a three-day candy orgy, by the end of which they’ve had enough anyway. It’s a reasonable, yet imperfect, compromise. I look forward to the years when they’re too old to go trick or treating and we can hold parties with their friends at home instead. That doesn’t scare me at all.