Latest Posts

Tearfund, the Christian development charity, sends out a monthly email to people interested in ethical fashion. For December, they decided to look at ethical food instead - after all, a lot of eating happens around the Christmas season! - and asked me to write something. Here’s what I came up with (although without all the lovely images they included!).

Key statistics • November 21, 2019

Just Kai frequently quotes three numbers:

  • around 40 million people are in slavery today;
  • of those people, around 7 million are making physical goods for sale;
  • around 20% of cocoa is produced by children.

Where do these numbers come from? As forced and child labour are almost-universally illegal, the numbers come from investigations and NGOs rather than official government statistics. In addition, except for the first, they are numbers we have derived from published statistics. Here’s how that was done.

Updated cocoa guide: November 2019 • November 20, 2019

Just Kai is excited to announce even more slave and child labour free cocoa products for sale in New Zealand. We have a new brand to announce (Oxfam) and we have a whole new product category: chocolate biscuits! Chocolate chip cookies from the Cookie Project are made with certified slave-free chcolate. Countdown has also further expanded their range of UTZ-certified chocolate baking supplies. Lastly, we note with sadness that Pana chocolate appears to no longer be Fairtrade certified.

logos for Oxfam, The Cookie Project and Countdown, plus the Pana logo with a red X through it.

Check out our cocoa guide for more slave-free cocoa products, as well as explanations of the certifications mentioned.

Christmas 2019: Festive meal • November 18, 2019

A festive meal that’s good for everyone - isn’t that what we all want? Yet sadly, some of the foods we typically eat at Christmas are produced at terrible cost to people far away. The sugar and cocoa used to make all those sweet treats may well have been grown by slave. Cocoa is also at high risk for child labour: around 20% of all cocoa produced worldwide is produced by kids who work full-time instead of going to school. And, if you’re ditching the ham and turkey for salmon or seafood, be careful with what you buy: fish is the food we eat that’s most likely to be caught or processed by slaves.

However, do not despair! A Christmas meal that’s good for everyone is possible. Read on to find brands of all the high-risk products that have reliable slave-free credentials! Also available as a summary pdf.

Photo by Du Wei on Unsplash

Are you looking for small luxury consumables to gift this Christmas, but don’t want people far-off to suffer so your friend can have a treat? Perhaps you’ve heard that around 20% of the chocolate on sale in New Zealand this Christmas will be made with cocoa produced by kids who are kept out of school to work? You don’t want to support that, but you’re still looking for something nice to give.

We’re here to help! Here’s a range of chocolatey gift options that are certified free of both child and slave labour and where the workers have been paid enough to live on. Also available as a summary pdf.

(Click here for more information on the certifications referred to.)

chopped dark chocolate

Photo by on Unsplash

Kingfisher prawns • November 11, 2019

As I reported earlier, Just Kai is currently researching slave-free brands of prawns and shrimp. We’d already identified some slave-free wild-caught unprocessed options. Now we have our first brand of slave-free farmed and processed prawns: Kingfisher. Kingfisher is stocked in PakNSave and New World supermarkets; their range includes prawn cutlets, crumbed prawns, prawns ready for stir-fry, and pre-cooked prawns and shrimp.

packets of all the Kingfisher prawn and shrimp varieties

Prawns and shrimp • October 24, 2019

Just Kai is in the processing of researching our next guide, on shellfish, crustaceans and squid. That means I’ve spent the past couple of weeks learning about the prawn industry. It’s been a fascinating process and I wanted to share some of what I’ve been learning. The prawn industry is remarkably complex!

Firstly, I’ve come to the conclusion that Argentinian red prawns/shrimps and Australian wild-caught prawns are both always OK from a human welfare point of view, so long as they haven’t been processed beyond simple freezing. There are no reports of slavery or child labour on fishing boats in those regions, and the freezing is done right on the boat. That means I already have two recommendations for prawns :-)

plate of cooked prawns

I recently had the honour of speaking to my local MP, Deborah Russell, about why I believe New Zealand needs a Modern Slavery Act. This is legislation that would require large-ish companies trading in New Zealand to report annually on what they are doing to eliminate slave labour from their supply chains. The legislation wouldn’t actually require them to do anything about supply chain slavery, but it would require them to make a public statement telling everyone how much effort they were (or weren’t!) making in this area. Such legislation already exists in Australia, the UK, California (where it’s called ‘Transparency in Supply Chains’) and France (where it’s called ‘Duty of Vigilance’.

I got talking to Deborah about Just Kai when I bumped into her at a community event a few months back; in a follow-up email I mentioned how helpful I’d been finding Modern Slavery Act reports in my Just Kai research and said how much I’d like New Zealand to pass such a law. She invited me to come in and talk to her about it.

Heather and Deborah are sitting at a desk looking at the camera.  A laptop faces them in the foreground.

Esthers: fair trade spreads • July 18, 2019

Did you know that Trade Aid sells wholesale as well as retail? If you have a food business and want to make sure your supply chain is free of child and slave labour, contact them and see if they have what you need :-) You’ll be joining over 2300 Kiwi businesses who use Trade Aid products either in their staff tea rooms or in the goods they sell. Everything from Trade Aid is certified through the World Fair Trade Organisation.

Esther Lewis is one of their new trade customers this year. She’s got a business selling sauerkraut, jam and almond butter. Both the sugar and the chocolate that goes into her chocolate almond butter come from Trade Aid.

jar of Esthers chocolate almond butter

NB: We updated this post in October 2019 but have pulled those updates into a new post for Christmas 2019 and restored this post to its original form.

Are you looking for a ‘consumable’ gift, but don’t want people far-off to suffer so your friend can have a treat? Here’s some options that are free of child and slave labour and where the workers have all been paid enough to live on.

(Look here for more information on the certifications referred to.)

chopped dark chocolate

Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

In the first version of our fish oil guide, Just Kai said we couldn’t be confident Swisse fish oils were slave free. We knew that they were Friends of the Sea certified, but limitations to that certification meant we couldn’t be confident of Swisse’s oils. However, today we received further information from them and we are now reasonably-certain they are slave free.

Below is the information about Swisse now presented in our guide.

Swisse logo

We had a question recently about Whittakers. Our cocoa guide highlights that only their 250g ‘creamy milk’ and ‘dark Ghana’ blocks are Fairtrade certified. On their website, Whittakers says: “we only source our other beans from the Ghana Cocoa Board, which is committed to ensuring the cocoa industry there is conducted in a socially responsible manner.”

Is this good enough? We don’t think so.

Some months back one of our neighbours asked us if the cod liver oil she takes is slave free. It’s been a bit of a challenge to find an answer, but we now have good news and bad news. The bad news? We’re not confident the brand she’s been taking is slave free. But the good news? We’ve identified two other brands we are confident are :-)

As well as looking into cod liver oil, along the way we looked into all major brands of fish oils and omega 3 supplements we found for sale either in supermarkets or online pharmacies. You can read our detailed findings here.

We recently spotted that Countdown’s chocolate hazelnut spread, as well as much of their baking ingredient range, has transitioned to UTZ-certified cocoa. Yay!

These join the Countdown own-brand drinking chocolate range and the Countdown chocolate-coated peanuts, raisins, almonds and licorice, all of which already use UTZ-certified cocoa.

It’s great to see Countdown is steadily rolling out point 11 of their 2020 Strategy. In that, they committed to “Source key raw materials and commodities sustainably to an independent standard by 2020.” For their own-brand products the independent standards they have chosen are Bonsucro, Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and UTZ certifications, all of which also have working condition standards.

Fairly Traded Easter Eggs 2019 • April 05, 2019

Did you know that at least 20% of the Easter eggs on sale in New Zealand this Easter will be made with cocoa grown by kids who are kept out of school to work? Kids who commonly work 12 hour days and are frequently beaten. Who would want to support that?

Fortunately, you don’t have to! Below are some ways you can get your Easter treats whilst helping your neighbours to flourish :-) - the list can also be downloaded as a pdf here.

Ferrero mini eggs glamour shot

Why we support Nestle • October 15, 2018

Around the world today countless people are being abused in the supply chains of large multinationals: either directly through their working conditions, or indirectly through the destruction of their environment. If we want this to stop, it is crucial that we either support Nestle, or boycott multinationals altogether. A selective Nestle-only boycott can do nothing but harm people who are current victims of the misbehaviour of large multinationals companies.

Why would we say such a thing? After all in the 1970s Nestle actively foisted infant formula onto mums who had no access to clean water to make it up, convincing them it was modern and hence better than breastfeeding. Tens of thousands of babies per year died from diaorrhea as a result. There was a widespread boycott of Nestle products as a result.

But have you noticed what happened subsequently? I’ve only discovered this relatively recently and have been really surprised by what I’ve learned.

Wildness Chocolate • October 19, 2017

I recently heard about a really cool chocolate company - Wildness Chocolate. I was really impressed by the founder, Marie Monmont, when she was interviewed on Nine to Noon on Radio NZ National. Kathryn Ryan asked her what she looked for in her suppliers and she said:

  • number one: no child labour
  • number two: environmental sustainability
  • number three: quality

I pricked my ears up, as that’s pretty much my priority order, too!

It became clear in the interview that she has a deep commitment to worker rights, both in Brazil (where she sources most of her ingredients) and here in New Zealand (where she manufactures). All the packaging is done by inmates of Rimutaka and Arohata prisons, for example, and she goes in and works alongside them. They are paid a living wage, as well as gaining skills that will hopefully improve their employability when they get out.

I am extremely concerned about the high levels of abuse in the cocoa growing industry. I am not willing to pay for people to be abused just so I can have a treat!

My bottom line is this. If the workers who grew the cocoa for a particular chocolate brand didn’t earn enough to feed themselves and send their children to school, or if they were subjected to serious abuse, then I won’t buy that product. As far as we are able, we are committed to living lives that allow our global neighbours to flourish.

How do I identify which chocolate is good to buy? Below I state my minimum labour standards, discuss briefly how I assess common claims made by chocolate brands and why I love certification, and then expand on these at greater length.

UTZ certification • February 24, 2016

I’ve long been a supporter of fair trade*: I want the people who produce the goods I use to:

  • have been paid a decent wage;
  • be working without coercion;
  • not be children**;
  • not be being exposed to poisons without suitable protection.

UTZ is a new-ish certification that meets these criteria.

UTZ certfied logo and Nestle cocoa plan statement "The Nestle Cocoa Plan works with UTZ to ensure a better future for cocoa farmers and even better chocolate for you."