The American government is proposing new labelling for chocolate that would indicate whether it was made with child labour.

New York Representative Eliot Engel sponsored the legislation which has passed first-round approval in the House of Representatives.

"We want to ensure that when people of this country eat chocolate, they are not eating chocolate that was processed by child slavery," says Engel, a Democrat.

Under his proposal, the Food and Drug Administration would develop a voluntary "no child labour" label that makers would put on foods containing chocolate or cocoa.

Engel and other child advocacy groups are taking aim at countries such as the Ivory Coast in Africa where children are sold to cocoa plantations and put to work.

Other top producing countries include Ghana, Indonesia and Nigeria, but the Ivory Coast is the source of half of U.S. imports of cocoa beans, which are processed into chocolate or cocoa powder. The country accounts for almost two-thirds of all cocoa bean production in the world.

The International Cocoa Council is considering a resolution for its member nations "to investigate and eradicate any criminal child labour activity that might exist."

The Chocolate Manufacturers Association says it's not going to fight Engel's proposals.

Engel's bill got a lot of support from his colleagues

"If people of this country knew that they were buying products of slave labour, particularly ... children as young as eight or nine years old, they would not buy it," says New York Democrat Maurice Hinchey.

The bill is expected to pass the House next week and will then move on to the Senate to be debated.