A Dutch journalist asked an Amsterdam court on Friday to convict him for eating chocolate, saying by doing so he was benefiting from child slavery on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast.

Teun van de Keuken, 35, is seeking a jail sentence to raise consumer awareness and force the cocoa and chocolate industry to take tougher measures to stamp out child labour.

"If I am found guilty of this crime, any chocolate consumer can be prosecuted after that. I hope that people would stop buying chocolate and thus hurt the sales of big corporations and make them do something about the problem," van de Keuken said.

Ivory Coast, the world's No. 1 cocoa producer which has been racked by instability since a brief 2002 civil war, is the target of allegations by international rights groups that children are working as slaves on its cocoa plantations.

Van de Keuken launched his attempt to be charged for eating chocolate two years ago when the Dutch public prosecutor ruled that it was not a case for the courts and that the journalist was not directly involved with the cocoa business.

On Friday, he appealed against the prosecutor's decision before a court which is expected to rule in April.

The journalist travelled to Burkina Faso to track down former child slaves who he said were sold by their impoverished parents or lured by merchants to work on Ivory Coast farms.

Van de Keuken said he has now brought one of these former child slaves to testify in court against him.

"We profit from these people and they get almost nothing in return. As consumers we are also responsible for these atrocities," van de Keuken told Reuters.

He urged consumers to choose fair trade chocolate but warned it was often difficult to trace the origin of cocoa beans.

The Netherlands is the biggest importer and processor of cocoa beans in the European Union, which accounts for 40 percent of global cocoa processing.

"I cannot deny that there are issues with child labour but it is totally wrong to call it slavery," said Robert Zehnder, secretary general of the European Cocoa Association (ECA). "We work with governments and NGOs to address the problem".

David Zimmer from the CAOBISCO industry association said boycotts of chocolate would hurt farmers in west Africa as 10 million people depended on cocoa for their livelihood.

Members of the global chocolate and cocoa industry signed an accord in late 2001 for the introduction of a certification system by July 2005 that would enable customers to choose chocolate produced without abusive labour practices. But, to the frustration of rights groups, deadlines have been slipping.