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Caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive substance in the world. It is highly addictive and causes unpleasant withdrawal symptoms (headaches being the most common) if you stop drinking it suddenly. Most people get their caffeine fixes from coffee and tea, but it is also present in cola drinks, energy drinks and chocolate (the darker the chocolate, the more caffeine it contains).
Caffeine is a strong diuretic and can cause insomnia, tremors and reduced fertility in men. It's bad news for pregnant women too.
Typical caffeine quantities: Red Bull (250ml can) - 80mg; Mother (500ml can) - 160mg; Coca-Cola can - 40mg; Coffee - 80-100mg typically; Tea - about half that of coffee (varies greatly); A chocolate bar - up to 10mg
Find out how much caffeine you consume each day using Choice's Caffeine calculator.
About 70 percent of the world's cocoa is grown in West Africa. Small family plots are the main producers. The average cocoa farm produces one or two tonnes of cocoa beans a year; one tonne is 16 sacks of cocoa. The average farmer makes between $1,400-$2,000 profit a year, at most about $5 a day, which will need to support 6-10 dependants. The present price is about $2.20 per kilo of cocoa beans.
Since 2000, the chocolate industry has been under scrutiny for using cocoa beans from West Africa (especially Cote d'Ivoire) where there are estimated to be over 284,000 child labourers working in slave conditions on cocoa farms (Source: International Labor Organisation, part of the UN). These children, mostly under 14, are involved in dangerous work, including spraying pesticides, using machetes and carrying heavy loads. They have no access to education or health care. Physical abuse is also common.
Look for products with the certified Fairtrade symbol.
Palm oil is found in roughly 50 per cent of all packaged products on supermarket shelves including shampoos, baking oil, chocolate, cosmetics, chips, cookies, margarine and soaps.
Unfortunately, not only does palm oil promote heart disease, but the vast plantations that grow oil palm trees have contributed to the destruction of the rainforest of South East Asia and threaten the survival of animals such as the Orangutan in Borneo, the Sumatran tiger, and Asian rhinoceros. Additionally, burning after deforestation accounts for significant greenhouse gas emissions. Despite this, it has recently been deemed a potential saviour as a renewable resource for use as a biofuel.
Palm oil may be in a product but labelled simply as 'vegetable oil'. An indicator however is if the nutritional panel lists saturated fat and it's higher than 50%, and yet there no animal fat listed as an ingredient, there is likely to be palm kernel oil, palm oil or coconut oil, as a component of 'vegetable oil' (most likely to be palm). See the various names for palm oil
Palm Oil Investigations
For a list of branded products that do not contain palm oil, see the 'Helping you buy responsibly' section on the Borneo Orangutan Survival website.
Borneo Orangutan Survival
Many of the pesticides used in cocoa production have been banned in the US, EU and here in Australia. These include Methyl Bromide, Pyrethrins, Glyphosate and Lindane.
Choose organic chocolate.
Features: Cocoa sourced directly from grower
Single origin chocolate grown in Vanuatu and made in a tiny factory in Mudgee, NSW. Cocoa is sourced directly from 2-3 families in Vanuatu.