'Green' women want chocolate firms to clean up their act

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The Independent Online
CHOCOLATE manufacturers were criticised yesterday for targeting women in their advertising despite the 'primary' role of chocolate in food bingeing, eating disorders and the cycle of 'insecurity and self-loathing' involved in constant dieting.

Advertisements such as that for Cadbury's Flake clearly link chocolate with sensuality and a slim and beautiful body image, acccording to a new campaign - yet what they are trying to sell is 'the very thing that is forbidden, banned and dangerous and to be avoided at all costs if one is to be beautiful'.

The campaign, launched by the Women's Environmental Network, wants manufacturers to produce pesticide-free chocolate and promote it more honestly. It is backed by a book, Chocolate Unwrapped - The Politics of Pleasure, the result of two years of research on the global effects of chocolate production and consumption.

The book's author, Cat Cox, says it is 'outrageous' that while eating disorders are increasing dramatically - there are 6,000 new cases of bulimia and anorexia each year in the UK, with 1 per cent of women in Western Europe affected - advertisers use super-slim models to promote their products.

In the last decade, the weight of top models has fallen from 8 per cent to 23 per cent below the average woman. These models become 'icons of contemporary beauty'.

Up to 90 per cent of women have dieted and over half are said to have suffered some form of disordered eating. Chocolate, however, is their 'number one binge food'.

Two out of three flake bars are eaten by women - the advertising campaign, now in its fourth decade, was relaunched at a cost of over pounds 2m in 1991.

The campaign also claims more than 30 pesticides are used in cocoa production, damaging the health of plantation workers and remaining as residues in chocolate bars sold in Britain.

Tests showed traces of lindane, a probable carcinogen. Although levels were well below official safety limits, some scientists believe even tiny amounts may be dangerous.

Chocolate Unwrapped; WEN, 22 Highbury Grove, London N5 2EA; pounds 8.99.