Would you believe me if I told you that a large number of crimes surround chocolate? It’s true. There is a huge problem with child labor and slave trafficking going on in the cocoa market today, but we will save that for another day. Today we are going to embark on a series of historical crimes revolving around chocolate including smuggling, arson, assault, fraud, counterfeiting, murder, tampering, burglary and theft, and negligence. Hard to believe, I know, but it is true. I guess once you find something that works for you, you stick with it and all forms are a target. Chocolate crimes happen to the raw beans, cocoa powder and the chocolate itself. Why? Because chocolate is a commodity. We may not think of it as such, but nonetheless it is a commodity. Chocolate was once considered very rare and was often compared to gold and silver in the same conversation. It was, and still is, traded among not only gold and silver, but copper, orange juice, sugar, tea and coffee.
A lot of the cocoa powder and chocolate products were tampered with by the merchants in Europe and the Americas during the 18th century. All kinds of crazy substances were added so the merchants could make more money. Some of the substances added to cocoa powder and chocolate include brick dust, chalk, clay, dirt, and talc. Yum. I can’t help but wonder if anyone noticed that their hot cocoa was a bit off. To avoid being included in this group of unscrupulous merchants, a few merchants started adding a branding sign to their cocoa powder and chocolate to prove its authenticity and purity.
Problems continued to escalate into the 19th century causing more merchants to resort to branding their cocoa powder and chocolate. Labels started featuring terms like good, pure and unadulterated to show good faith. These types of problems continue to haunt small areas of the cocoa and chocolate industry even into the 20th century. Frequently during this time, there were magazine and newspaper articles warning of the health dangers associated with impure chocolate.
Next week… How can you get arrested for stealing something that was already consumed? A look at the Old Bailey Criminal Court in London. I promise you will think I am making this up!