30th September 2010 The Times
To eat chocolate is to enter a moral maze. It has been associated with indulgence and sex and more recently, justice
To eat chocolate is to enter a moral maze. It has always been associated with indulgence and sex — if you believe the advertising — and the newest selling point is justice: “fairly traded” chocolate that promises a decent livelihood for the cocoa farmers. In the past year this has become mainstream: Cadbury (with Dairy Milk) and Nestlé (with KitKat) have gone into Fairtrade, and some Mars products carry the less-exacting Rainforest Alliance label. You can have chocolate both sinful and worthy simultaneously: “Indulge your sweet tooth with this decadent collection of Fairtrade Belgian chocolates . . .” runs an ad on the Oxfam shop website.
Can you taste that goodness? At a party I handed round two plates of chocolate squares. They looked identical but I said one had Fairtrade chocolate on it, the other was conventional: I wanted to know which tasted better. My subjects voted in favour of the Fairtrade chocolate, and with a political bias: the more liberal-minded, the more they preferred the Fairtrade. I’d conned them, of course: the two chocolates were the same, which made everyone cross.
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