It's no longer news that dark chocolate is good for our health: It's even got 14 times as many antioxidants as broccoli. But its virtue goes only so far if it isn't produced sustainably. Conventionally harvested cacao (the plant from which chocolate is made) is second only to cotton in the amount of pesticides used to grow it, according to the Pesticide Action Network. And it's often grown in areas stripped of rainforest flora and fauna. What's more, standard-style cacao farming has been linked to child labor, slave labor, and other harsh labor practices, says Nicole Chettero, a spokesperson for TransFair USA, the only independent third-party Fair Trade product certifier in the United States. Fair trade chocolate, by contrast, comes direct from small farms whose practices don't violate human rights. "Fair Trade certification guarantees that no slave labor is used," Chettero says. "The gold standard is to look for chocolate labeled Fair Trade Certified and organic." Not available in your local store? "To increase supply, increase demand—ask for it," Chettero advises.
If you can't find treats labeled as both fairly traded and organic—the push for sustainable chocolate is somewhat recent—look for at least one of those designations. Phrases such as "pesticide free," "Rainforest Alliance Certified," and "ethically traded" also suggest that a company is making an effort to use cacao harvested in a humane and eco-friendly way.