Sweeties: Trick or Treat?

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Halloween is one of our favorite holidays. Carved pumpkins, spooky costumes and scary stories step front and center for everyone in our neighborhood. Alas, last fall, I read a scary story I did not care for in Green American. It detailed the ugly side of chocolate candies and unfair labor – specifically child labor.  The article quoted research done by the State Department into the process of cocoa farming in Africa. Allegedly, children are traded as slaves to work on cocoa plantations there. Green America has made this information available again on a special link for Halloween 2011. Though I no longer eat milk chocolate, my happy childhood memories of Hershey bars and Reese’s Cups have taken on a sour taste. I grew up not 30 miles from Hershey, Pa and loved their candy, as well as the fun times my family had at Hershey Park. The irony of Hershey – or any company – using child laborers to create treats for other children is beyond a frightening Halloween story. So we set out on another path the past two Halloweens.

First we investigated fair trade chocolate. There are quite a few good options out there, as detailed on the Green America chocolate chart.  Now, if you only get 50 or so little ghouls at your door, I’d say spring for the fair trade chocolate. It is more expensive than your usual Krackel, but you are paying for ethical labor, which is worth it. Plus it’s fair trade chocolate. It’s delicious, it melts in your mouth, it’s good-for-you and environmentally awesome.

But our neighborhood gets literally several hundred trick-or-treaters. We’re talking about 400-ish kids at the door in 3 hours and it would be bad to turn off the light after only 20 minutes – we’d be first in line to get egged. We needed another option and decided to see what candies we could find that were made in the USA. Maybe we could even find some tasty vegan or vegetarian options, too.

This turned out to be trickier than we expected. Many companies don’t list where their sweets are made and we had to pass all those products by. After about 40 minutes at the grocery store though, we had several bags of candy in the cart. With all these treats, you can now feel much better about All Hallow’s Eve. These products are widely available and easier on the wallet than fair trade chocolate.

Here is what we found in our local store,  all made with pride in the USA:

Airheads (vegan)

Dots (vegan)

Dum-Dum Pops (plain are vegan; filled centers have geltain)

Marvel Heroes Candy Sticks (contain geltain)

Palmer’s Creepy Peeper Mix (vegetarian- made in nearby PA)

Palmer’s Twisted Pumpkins (vegetarian – made in nearby PA)

Pepperidge Farms Cheddar Goldfish Crackers (vegetarian)

Smarties (vegan)

Snyder’s of Hanover Pretzels (vegan, made in nearby PA)

Stauffer’s Animal Crackers (vegan, made in nearby PA)

Sweet’s Trick or Treat Taffy (vegetarian)

Sour Punch Twists (vegan)

Tootsie Roll Pops  (vegetarian)

Utz Bats & Jacks Pretzels (vegan, made in nearby PA)

Utz Mini Cheese Balls (vegetarian, made in nearby PA)

This list is from our neighborhood chain grocery in Maryland. You may find other great local treats or vegan sweets. Want a fast list of vegan candies? Use this handy list provided by PetaKids or this one from VegNews. It doesn’t note where the confections are made, so you will have to read labels.

We learned that companies producing their treats in the USA typically print this info pretty large on the bag or box. They want you to know it was made by American labor. Don’t be fooled with the listing of where the company’s offices are – look for “Made in the USA.”

Happy Halloween!

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