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Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World's Most Seductive Sweet Hardcover – Apr 2008


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: New Press (April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595583300
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595583307
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 15 x 3.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,325,877 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Chocolate is a wonderful product. It makes its consumer feel good and, at its most refined, is as capable of providing all the exquisite and subtle ranges of refinement and taste as fine wine. We associate chocolate with happiness, and yet all is not sweetness and light in the chocolate industry. With this book Canadian investigative journalist, Carol Off, digs beneath the surface of the industry's smiling public face to expose the exploitative side of the business, in particular with regard to the growers of cacao, who often struggle just to live so low are their incomes. First providing a brief history of chocolate, Off then examines the historical and current behaviours of the major chocolate industry companies as well as the government and politics of the major cacao producers. It is not a pretty story. Corruption, violence and exploitation (including some child slavery) at country level are rife (and appear always to have been) in the industry. The author uses Cote d'Ivoire, the world's number one cacao producer, as her main case study, and risks her safety to travel into its cacao and political heart. Everyone involved in the industry gets criticised by Off, but this is not a book that just targets big corporations for the misery of cacao producers (the argument always being that they should simply pay cacao farmers more); the situation is much too complex for that and Off makes that crystal clear. If anything, the book is most condemnatory of the corruption and brutality of regime's such as that of Cote d'Ivoire. How to improve the lot of the cacao farmer is a difficult question to answer. At its root must be honest and stable governments in the major cacao producing countries. After that there is the question of how much companies should pay for cacao.Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 9 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Powerful and un-biased 14 Oct 2008
By Neil - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Researching the poor working conditions in third world countries, I thought this book would only give me the history of chocolate. Instead I discovered a comprehensive look at the abuses in the cocoa sector primarily in the Cote d'Ivoire. A combination of the developed countries demand for cheap chocolate, corrupt government, corrupt police and avaricious manufacturers, the true losers are the farmers and the "indentured" workers who produce my favorite food source. Carol Off presents an unbiased look at the world's favorite confection.
[...]
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Interesting expose of the cruelty behind our favorite dessert 11 Aug 2008
By Alan A. Elsner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book is half history, half passionate condemnation of "Big Chocolate." As a chocolaholic myself, it did make bitter reading. Apparently, the international chocolate industry is fueled by the cruel exploitation of child labor in Africa. These children are treated no better than slaves. Others who are complicit in the many sins of this industry include the Europeans and American companies who profit from it, the IMF and World Bank who impose impossible conditions on producer nations, the corrupt leaders and officials in the countries themselves who cynically exploit their own citizens and of course we, the consumers.
France comes in for particular condemnation for its behavior in Cote D'Ivoire.
I learned from this book that it has always been thus. Major companies like Cadbury and Rowntree were founded by Quakers devoted to the ideals of treating their employees well and did so -- in England. But they turned a blind eye to the horrible slave-like conditions of those who grew and picked the crop in Africa. Likewise, Milton Hershey was an enlightened though paternalistic employer in America -- but did not care about the poor Africans who actually produced his raw materials.
It's an interesting, though depressing book. It's well-researched and well-written but it can't be called real investigative reporting since it relies mostly on the fruits of others' labors and a bit too much on Canadian sources. It spreads its condemnation a little too wide as well on occasion. I sometimes felt the entire capitalist system was under assault. However, still very much worth reading.

I guess I'm weak. I still like chocolate occasionally. I guess I'll try to find "fair trade" and "organic" products in future.
For more on me and my book The Nazi Hunter: A Novel go to [...]
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Eye opening 11 Feb 2009
By Philip J. Graham - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
As an anthropologist, I found the topic of this book fascinating. Once you get into it, you will never look at chocolate the same way again. Sadly, most of the info in the book was not all that surprising given what I already knew about the practices of various post-colonial countries around the world. It is a good example of the Modern World System gone awry.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Great read that could change which chocolate you buy 2 Jun 2010
By John.Corvallis - Published on Amazon.com
A great read on the history of chocolate and associated labor practices with a large and deep side note on the politics of Cote d Ivoire. While I have read articles on the child labor practices in western Africa, this book has changed my buying habits. The quality of the writing is good.
Exposing the dark and bitter side of a sweet industry 24 Feb 2011
By Adrenalin Streams - Published on Amazon.com
Chocolate is a wonderful product. It makes its consumer feel good and, at its most refined, is as capable of providing all the exquisite and subtle ranges of refinement and taste as fine wine. We associate chocolate with happiness, and yet all is not sweetness and light in the chocolate industry. With this book Canadian investigative journalist, Carol Off, digs beneath the surface of the industry's smiling public face to expose the exploitative side of the business, in particular with regard to the growers of cacao, who often struggle just to live so low are their incomes. First providing a brief history of chocolate, Off then examines the historical and current behaviours of the major chocolate industry companies as well as the government and politics of the major cacao producers. It is not a pretty story. Corruption, violence and exploitation (including some child slavery) at country level are rife (and appear always to have been) in the industry. The author uses Cote d'Ivoire, the world's number one cacao producer, as her main case study, and risks her safety to travel into its cacao and political heart. Everyone involved in the industry gets criticised by Off, but this is not a book that just targets big corporations for the misery of cacao producers (the argument always being that they should simply pay cacao farmers more); the situation is much too complex for that and Off makes that crystal clear. If anything, the book is most condemnatory of the corruption and brutality of regime's such as that of Cote d'Ivoire. How to improve the lot of the cacao farmer is a difficult question to answer. At its root must be honest and stable governments in the major cacao producing countries. After that there is the question of how much companies should pay for cacao. It may be that companies are forced to pay more soon because of an impending world cacao shortage, and those that argue that you must allow the market to operate freely may feel this strengthens their case. Then there are those who feel that big companies should act more philanthropically by paying more than they need to for cacao - i.e. Fair Trade, or by guaranteeing to purchase cacao from farmers who follow sustainable methods (i.e. Rainforest Alliance). It is not my place as a reviewer to answer these questions. However, Carol Off's book exposes in a stark manner that cacao farmers in countries like Cote d'Ivoire are not in a sustainable position and one way or another something needs to be done to rectify the situation. There is no simple solution, and probably a combination of stable government, higher prices and better education of farmers is required. Of course, the chocolate consumer is also part of the equation. We may complain about poorly paid cacao producers but we still buy chocolate, and most people don't like the prices of their products going up. To slightly distort a well known phrase - you can't have your chocolate and eat it. "Bitter Chocolate" is a thought provoking work, one that attempts to provide a balanced view of the darker side of the chocolate industry. It is highly recommended as an entry book on the subject
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