The owner and chef of the Michelin-starred President restaurant in Pompeii, his link with the fruit is so strong, he says, that he and it are intrinsically entwined.Whether it's a scarlet-slicked pizza or a red-sauced spaghetti al pomodoro, Italy's most instantly recognizable dishes both include tomato.In fact, she says, Italy's complex history -- it wasn't unified until 1861 -- means that what we think of Italian food is, for the most part, a relatively modern concept."Many times we don't think of food in historical terms, but history and political relationships have had an impact on the way we eat -- not just society and changes in diet," she says.Brought to Europe by the Spanish when they colonized the Americas -- it's an Aztec plant, as we can tell by its original name, "tomatl" -- by the mid-1500s, it had made its way to Italy.Or maybe it made its way over with Eleanor of Toledo, who came to Florence when she married the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I de' Medici, in 1539.Diego Zancani, emeritus professor of medieval and modern languages at Oxford University and author of "How We Fell in Love with Italian Food," agrees.The earliest recipe for tomato sauce was published in 1694, by Neapolitan chef Antonio Latini in his book "Lo Scalco alla Moderna" -- "The Modern Steward."."It was something to admire, to brag about because you're one of the few people to display this rare plant from overseas, but tomatoes weren't part of the diet of the rich.From Naples, tomato-eating gradually spread over the Spanish-dominant parts of Italy, and then beyond says Del Soldato -- although you'll still find less tomato in northern regions.I think this obsession with not wasting food is very typical of Italian culture," she says, pointing out braciole rifatte -- breaded meat stewed in a tomato sauce -- as the perfect example.That's where the San Marzano variety comes in -- that long, easy-peeling plum tomato, hailing from the sunny Naples and Salerno area of Campania, that top pizzerias shout from the rooftops.The marshy land around the Po Valley, in the north, was quickly judged suitable for tomato-growing, he says, adding that the area around Parma, Modena and Piacenza is still Italy's tomato hub today.Of course, other nations make major use of the tomato -- it's a staple of Mediterranean diets, for starters -- but Italy's obsession is particular.For Zancani, it's the cuore di bue ("ox's heart") -- an enormous, meaty salad tomato known for its lack of water.For Del Soldato -- who goes out of her way in Philadelphia to buy canned tomatoes and passata from Italy -- it's the squished, multiple-folded pomodoro fiorentino, which Tuscans use with onions, eggs and basil in a dish called fricassea. .

What Was Italian Food Like Before Tomatoes?

Few foods encapsulate the flavor of Italy quite like the pomodoro, or what we call the tomato in English.At Ferraro Restaurant & Wine Bar, we’re passionate about every aspect of the Italian culinary tradition – so we’re here to turn back the clock and show what Italians ate before the tomato.While the tomato may not be indigenous to Italy, it’s firmly placed itself at the center of traditional Italian cuisine, and it’s one of the flavors we most know and love from Italy. .

How The Tomato Transformed The European Diet

After all, for centuries, the tomato was associated with its taxonomical group, Solanaceae, also known as the deadly nightshade family, and assumed to be poison.While today, we commonly associate the tomato with Italy, the fruit did not originate in Europe, but rather in South America.When the Spanish brought the tomato back to Europe, it was mostly used as a decorative plant — even though they were aware that the Aztecs did consume it, they believed that it was a food best eaten in cold weather.One of the earliest European references to tomatoes was made by Italian herbalist and physicist Pietro Andrae Matthioli in 1544, who classified it as not only a nightshade but a mandrake, which were known aphrodisiacs.As Naples had been part of the Spanish Empire at the time of the conquistadors (from 1504 to 1714, to be precise), the tomato’s Italian sojourn began here, in what would later be known as the capital of pizza.This continued, in part, because of the way flatware was made in Europe; the rich ate their food off of pewter, a material with high lead content.Tomatoes were actually first planted in the colonies long before: in 1710, they were referenced in Botanologia, a book by herbalist William Salmon, printed in the Carolinas.While Thomas Jefferson, who began growing them in 1781, did not bring them to the States, a feat often attributed to the early president, he did help them increase in popularity, though solely as a decorative plant.As far as culinary uses for the tomato in the early years of the States, New Orleans and Florida, with Spanish and French influences, get most of the credit. .


Edible berry of the tomato plant, Solanum lycopersicum.The tomato is the edible berry of the plant Solanum lycopersicum,[1][2] commonly known as a tomato plant.[3][4] Its domestication and use as a cultivated food may have originated with the indigenous peoples of Mexico.From there, the tomato was introduced to other parts of the European-colonized world during the 16th century.Numerous varieties of the tomato plant are widely grown in temperate climates across the world, with greenhouses allowing for the production of tomatoes throughout all seasons of the year.Grape tomatoes on the vine for sale at a market.[citation needed] In this capacity, it has even become an American and British slang term: saying " " when presented with two choices can mean "What's the difference?".Fruit versus vegetable.Tomato flower.An unripe tomato growing on the vine.Flowers in domestic cultivars can be self-fertilizing.These vary, among cultivated species, according to type.The corrected name Lycopersicon lycopersicum (Nicolson 1974) was technically valid, since Miller's genus name and Linnaeus's species name differ in exact spelling, but since Lycopersicon esculentum has become so well known, it was officially listed as a nomen conservandum in 1983, and would be the correct name for the tomato in classifications which do not place the tomato in the genus Solanum.[1][19] Both names, however, will probably be found in the literature for some time.Tomatoes that have been modified using genetic engineering have been developed, and although none are commercially available now, they have been in the past.These seed stocks are available for legitimate breeding and research efforts.The wild ancestor of the tomato is native to western South America.[27] Aztecs and other peoples in Mesoamerica were the first to have domesticated the fruit and used in their cooking.The Spanish first introduced tomatoes to Europe, where they became used in Spanish food.[31] The large, lumpy variety of tomato, a mutation from a smoother, smaller fruit, originated in Mesoamerica, and may be the direct ancestor of some modern cultivated tomatoes.The Aztecs raised several varieties of tomato, with red tomatoes called xictomatl and green tomatoes called tomatl (Tomatillo).After the Spanish colonization of the Americas, the Spanish distributed the tomato throughout their colonies in the Caribbean.It was probably eaten shortly after it was introduced, and was certainly being used as food by the early 17th century in Spain.The tomato was introduced to China, likely via the Philippines or Macau, in the 1500s.The recorded history of tomatoes in Italy dates back to at least 31 October 1548, when the house steward of Cosimo de' Medici, the grand duke of Tuscany, wrote to the Medici private secretary informing him that the basket of tomatoes sent from the grand duke's Florentine estate at Torre del Gallo "had arrived safely".[citation needed] Tomatoes were grown mainly as ornamentals early on after their arrival in Italy.However, even in areas where the climate supported growing tomatoes, their habit of growing to the ground suggested low status.Unique varieties were developed over the next several hundred years for uses such as dried tomatoes, sauce tomatoes, pizza tomatoes, and tomatoes for long-term storage.These varieties are usually known for their place of origin as much as by a variety name.However, by the mid-18th century, tomatoes were widely eaten in Britain, and before the end of that century, the Encyclopædia Britannica stated the tomato was "in daily use" in soups, broths, and as a garnish.It was grown from the 18th century onwards for the British.[39][40] Nineteenth century descriptions of its consumption are uniformly as an ingredient in a cooked dish.In 1881, it is described as only eaten in the region "within the last forty years".The earliest reference to tomatoes being grown in British North America is from 1710, when herbalist William Salmon reported seeing them in what is today South Carolina.By the mid-18th century, they were cultivated on some Carolina plantations, and probably in other parts of the Southeast as well.Possibly, some people continued to think tomatoes were poisonous at this time; and in general, they were grown more as ornamental plants than as food.When Livingston began his attempts to develop the tomato as a commercial crop, his aim had been to grow tomatoes smooth in contour, uniform in size, and sweet in flavor.[44] Today, the crop is grown in every state in the Union.Because of the long growing season needed for this heat-loving crop, several states in the US Sun Belt became major tomato-producers, particularly Florida and California.[47] The center is named for the late Dr. Charles M.

Rick, a pioneer in tomato genetics research.Modern commercial varieties.The poor taste and lack of sugar in modern garden and commercial tomato varieties resulted from breeding tomatoes to ripen uniformly red.This was widely cross-bred to produce red fruit without the typical green ring around the stem on uncross-bred varieties.The u genetic mutation encodes a factor that produces defective chloroplasts with lower density in developing fruit, resulting in a lighter green colour of unripe fruit, and repression of sugars accumulation in the resulting ripe fruit by 10–15%.Hence genetic design of a commercial variety that combines the advantages of types u and U requires fine tuning, but may be feasible.Furthermore, breeders of modern tomato cultivars typically strive to produce tomato plants exhibiting improved yield, shelf life, size, and tolerance/resistance to various environmental pressures, including disease.Thus, breeding efforts attempting to enhance certain traits (for example: larger fruit size) have unintentionally altered production of chemicals associated with, for instance, nutritional value and flavor.Breeders have turned to using wild tomato species as a source of alleles for the introduction of beneficial traits into modern tomato varieties.Cultivation.The tomato is grown worldwide for its edible fruits, with thousands of cultivars.[citation needed] On average there are 150,000 seeds in a pound of tomato seeds.Diseases, pests, and disorders.Tomato cultivars vary widely in their resistance to disease.Various forms of mildew and blight are common tomato afflictions, which is why tomato cultivars are often marked with a combination of letters that refer to specific disease resistance.A common tomato disease is tobacco mosaic virus.After an insect attack tomato plants produce systemin, a plant peptide hormone .Although not a disease as such, irregular supplies of water can cause growing or ripening fruit to split.Borage is thought to repel the tomato hornworm moth.Tomato plants can protect asparagus from asparagus beetles, because they contain solanine that kills this pest,[citation needed] while asparagus plants contain Asparagusic acid that repels nematodes known to attack tomato plants.In the wild, original state, tomatoes required cross-pollination; they were much more self-incompatible than domestic cultivars.This is not the same as self-pollination, despite the common claim that tomatoes do so.Pollination and fruit formation depend on meiosis.Hydroponic and greenhouse cultivation.Tomatoes are often grown in greenhouses in cooler climates, and cultivars such as the British 'Moneymaker' and a number of cultivars grown in Siberia are specifically bred for indoor growing.Greenhouse tomato production in large-acreage commercial greenhouses and owner-operator stand-alone or multiple-bay greenhouses is on the increase, providing fruit during those times of the year when field-grown fruit is not readily available.This type of tomato is grown commercially near plants that process and can tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste.They are harvested when ripe and are flavorful when picked.California is a center of this sort of commercial tomato production and produces about a third of the processed tomatoes produced in the world.[83][full citation needed] It yielded thousands of tomatoes at one time from a single vine.Tomato plants 7 days after planting.52-day-old plant, first fruits.Production.In 2019, world production of tomatoes was 181 million tonnes, with China accounting for 35% of the total, followed by India and Turkey as major producers (see table).Though it is botanically a berry, a subset of fruit, the tomato is a vegetable for culinary purposes because of its savoury flavour (see above).The tomato is now grown and eaten around the world.The leaves, stem, and green unripe fruit of the tomato plant contain small amounts of the alkaloid tomatine, whose effect on humans has not been studied.Small amounts of tomato foliage are sometimes used for flavoring without ill effect, and the green fruit of unripe red tomato varieties is sometimes used for cooking, particularly as fried green tomatoes.[29] There are also tomato varieties with fully ripe fruit that is still green.However, even in the case of potatoes, while solanine poisoning resulting from dosages several times the normal human consumption has been demonstrated, actual cases of poisoning from excessive consumption of potatoes are rare.Tomato plants can be toxic to dogs if they eat large amounts of the fruit, or chew plant material.Several US states have adopted the tomato as a state fruit or vegetable (see above).Tomatoes have been designated the state vegetable of New Jersey.Arkansas took both sides by declaring the South Arkansas Vine Ripe Pink Tomato both the state fruit and the state vegetable in the same law, citing both its culinary and botanical classifications.In 2009, the state of Ohio passed a law making the tomato the state's official fruit.Alexander W. Livingston, of Reynoldsburg, Ohio, played a large part in popularizing the tomato in the late 19th century; his efforts are commemorated in Reynoldsburg with an annual Tomato Festival. .

Why the Tomato Was Feared in Europe for More Than 200 Years

A nickname for the fruit was the “poison apple” because it was thought that aristocrats got sick and died after eating them, but the truth of the matter was that wealthy Europeans used pewter plates, which were high in lead content.Because tomatoes are so high in acidity, when placed on this particular tableware, the fruit would leach lead from the plate, resulting in many deaths from lead poisoning.Before the fruit made its way to the table in North America, it was classified as a deadly nightshade, a poisonous family of Solanaceae plants that contain toxins called tropane alkaloids.One of the earliest-known European references to the food was made by the Italian herbalist, Pietro Andrae Matthioli, who first classified the “golden apple” as a nightshade and a mandrake—a category of food known as an aphrodisiac.Smith quotes Gerard:.While the leaves and stalk of the tomato plant are toxic, the fruit is not.Around this time it was also believed that tomatoes were best eaten in hotter countries, like the fruit’s place of origin in Mesoamerica.Up until the late 1800s in cooler climates, tomatoes were solely grown for ornamental purposes in gardens rather than for eating.The fear, it seems, had subsided.With the rise of agricultural societies, farmers began investigating the tomato’s use and experimented with different varieties.According to Smith, back in the 1850s the name tomato was so highly regarded that it was used to sell other plants at market. .

An heirloom from Italy: Locally grown tomatoes are red jewels at

An heirloom of Italy: Locally grown tomatoes are red jewels at Vaccaro’s Trattoria.“You’ve got to grow this tomato called the Red Pear of Abruzzo,” Mike told his younger brother, adding that they make great sauce and are good for eating.Katz was eager to give us a tour of his hives, chicken coop, flower gardens, and those wonderful heirloom tomato plants.“Look at these plants,” Vaccaro said.“They have really good flavor.”.It’s the feeling we get when the first ear of Szalay’s sweet corn arrives in May, or the legendary Mackinaw peach arrives at Cosmo Kramer’s favorite New York fruit stand.It’s a special time of year for Italian chefs.I am half Italian and was full of excitement to meet Vaccaro at his restaurant for a mid-day tasting.Vaccaro came out of the kitchen with an Italian-sized platter for two, but more than enought for three, overflowing with his $14 heirloom tomato and burrata salad creation.Paired with Italian wine.In true Italian fashion, Vaccaro brought out a $40 bottle of Marramiero Altare white wine that’s made from Trebbiano D’Abruzzo grapes, the same region the tomatoes originated.Stop by for a little taste of Italy. .

10 of Italy's Most Iconic Tomato Dishes & Where They Came From

While the Tuscans were musing over the ornamental qualities of the plant and perhaps afraid of the new fruit for a century or so, frugal Jewish cooks were already using it in the kitchen—one of Livorno's best known dishes, a simple recipe of pan-fried red mullet with chopped tomatoes, is actually of Tuscan-Jewish origin.Indeed, when you look at a map of Italy's best known tomato dishes, they come mostly from the southern half of the boot, where they grow best and where they have spent the longest time in the kitchens.Born in the fields of tomato farmers in Campania as a quick and easy in situ snack, it didn't take much for this preparation to spread north to the Tuscan countryside or south to Puglia too.Plump, slumped tomatoes filled with a simple, garlicky rice stuffing and baked in the oven with thick-cut potatoes are a staple in Roman homes, canteens, and even bakeries.It's a relatively “new” dish, probably invented in the nineteenth century, one that inevitably speaks of high summer in the Mediterranean with the flavor of the sunny tomatoes and milky local mozzarella.Purists such as Neapolitan journalist and wine writer Luciano Pignataro will even turn down extra olive oil, pointing out that the liquid weeping from the mozzarella and the juice of the tomatoes makes its own wonderfully balanced sauce.This summery Tuscan salad of torn-up stale bread, tomatoes, cucumber, and red onion has been a favorite lunch of the Florentines since at least the Renaissance.Tomatoes probably started appearing on pizza later, in the seventeenth century, and according to the University of Udine in Italy's north, this marriage happened in Naples.The tomato sauce carries the eggplants and gives acidity to this hearty pasta dish, which is completed by a showering of bitey, finely grated ricotta salata.Goethe's Italian Journey, based on the diaries kept during his travels to Italy in 1786 to 1788, recounts the pasta he experienced in Naples: “As a rule, it is simply cooked in water and seasoned with grated cheese.” But exactly around this time, we also find the first Italian recipe for tomato sauce in philosopher-chef Vincenzo Corrado's Cuoco Galante, published in Naples in 1773.Shortly after, pasta al pomodoro appears in Antonio Nebbia's recipe book Cuoco Maceratese from Le Marche. .

Who Invented Pizza?

These early pizzas consumed by Naples’ poor featured the tasty garnishes beloved today, such as tomatoes, cheese, oil, anchovies and garlic.The variety the queen enjoyed most was called pizza mozzarella, a pie topped with the soft white cheese, red tomatoes and green basil.An ocean away, though, immigrants to the United States from Naples were replicating their trusty, crusty pizzas in New York and other American cities, including Trenton, New Haven, Boston, Chicago and St. Louis.The Neapolitans were coming for factory jobs, as did millions of Europeans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; they weren’t seeking to make a culinary statement.As Italian-Americans, and their food, migrated from city to suburb, east to west, especially after World War II, pizza’s popularity in the United States boomed.“Like blue jeans and rock and roll, the rest of the world, including the Italians, picked up on pizza just because it was American,” explains Mariani.Reflecting local tastes, global pizza toppings can run the gamut from Gouda cheese in Curaçao to hardboiled eggs in Brazil.


Are your tinned tomatoes picked by slave labour?

On 6 August last year, 14 immigrant farmhands in Foggia, on the ankle of the Italian boot, were coming home from a 12-hour shift picking tomatoes in 40C heat.Only two days before, also in Foggia, four labourers had died in a similar accident: 16 dead in 48 hours.In the Italian south, the lives of foreign agricultural labourers are so cheap that many NGOs have described their conditions as a modern form of slavery.They live in isolated rural ruins or shanty towns.A few have work contracts, although union organisers often find they are fake.There is no question that the migrant workers are vulnerable to exploitation, but Yvan Sagnet, a Cameroonian anti-slavery activist who once worked picking tomatoes in Puglia, explains that the vulnerability is mental as much as physical.In the Italian deep south, where the mafia runs a parallel system of local rule with its own violent enforcement, the law holds little sway.Salvini and his allies have turned logic on its head.For them, the victims aren’t the people who have been enslaved, but the Italian people.In their view, the criminals aren’t gangmasters who exploit the workers, but immigrants (“every day in Italy”, Salvini has tweeted, “immigrants commit 700 crimes”).The tomato industry alone is worth £2.8bn.“The criminal economy is far better organised than the ordinary one,” says Leonardo Palmisano, sociologist and author of Mafia Caporale (“Gangmaster Mafia”), a study of the illegal exploitation of workers in Italy.Supermarkets and their suppliers cite their use of certifications that are intended to reassure consumers that the goods we buy are produced under legal labour practices.Thousands of immigrants head here every winter to work on the orange harvest, and end up staying in shanty towns three miles west of Rosarno.There are three shanty towns in San Ferdinando.One of the San Ferdinando camps for migrant labourers near the Gioia Tauro port in southern Italy.The main shanty town has the mud and improvised paths of a very edgy music festival.He was shot dead last summer by an Italian while he was trying to find some more metal in a nearby abandoned warehouse.Nobody knows how many people live in these conditions around San Ferdinando, but at the height of the season, there are probably 2,000 people.Sometimes they have to cycle for one or two hours to get to work, and most people are so exhausted that all they do when not working is sleep.There are dozens of slums like San Ferdinando across southern Italy, swelling and contracting according to the season.Often, the labourers are driven from one remote shanty town to another by gangmasters.In summer, they cross to Puglia, the heel of Italy, to pick tomatoes and peppers, before moving to the Veneto or Piemonte to pick grapes in early autumn.Few even reveal to relatives back home the desperate situation in which they find themselves.In an abandoned warehouse, not far from the shanty town of Borgo Mezzanone in Puglia, an immigrant worker called Njobo tells us: “The Africans that are living here, most of them are living a fake life.Two of the people who died in fires in the San Ferdinando shanty town had drifted there to hide from authorities because their permits had recently expired.Beauty, a Nigerian woman in a purple wig who lives in the San Ferdinando shanty town, told us: “You never feel safe.The men and women living in these shanty towns are exploited from the moment they arrive on Italian soil.Centres for asylum-seekers have processed hundreds of thousands of immigrants, and the mafia is often part of the management.”.The Italian state pays €35 per immigrant per day (and €45 for minors) to reception centres that house them.During the mass migrations of recent years, the government contracted out the housing and feeding of migrants, which became a billion-euro industry.There, the migrants continue to be exploited for profit, through a system called caporalato.The practice of caporalato has been illegal since a 2016 law banned intermediaries from exploiting vulnerable agricultural labourers (thanks, largely, to the courageous campaigning of Yvan Sagnet), and yet it is still ubiquitous.No one knows if there will be work.Costs vary, but in general the labourers have to pay around €3 for transportation to and from the fields.The vehicles usually carry double the legal limit of passengers, with men and women sitting on top of each other.Although piecework in agriculture is illegal, that is how all labourers are paid: the going rate is €3.50 to fill a chest with 300kg of tomatoes, or €5.50 if they are cherry tomatoes; workers receive €1 for a huge case of tangerines or 50 cents for one of oranges.Because the Bossi-Fini law ties residency to the possession of a work contract, many purchase a contract for hundreds of euros.Other times, the contract is issued in the name, not of the immigrant, but of a local man or woman who doesn’t work and has probably never been to the fields.On 2 October last year, a Calabrian mayor, Mimmo Lucano, was arrested.For years, Lucano had been the mayor of Riace, a hilltop town 20km east of Rosarno.“He’s a nothing,” Matteo Salvini said of Lucano after his arrest.Bottles of water were left on park benches in case anyone was in need.“The migrant is a resource, not something to be used for profit,” he says.The village of Riace applied for funding for a new government programme called “diffused welcome”, which would later become a model called SPRAR (system of protection for asylum-seekers and refugees).In this model, rather than using huge detention centres, local councils accept immigrants and are given the funding and responsibility to integrate them.In the last 20 years, Riace has received 6,000 immigrants from 20 different countries.“Riace”, the road sign now says when you arrive, “A town of welcome”.There was something so enchanting about what Lucano had achieved in a remote Calabrian village that he became a national figure.Since his arrest, Lucano has been banned from his town.Riace’s former mayor, Mimmo Lucano.In April, the same happened – for the third time – to part of the Borgo Mezzanone shanty town.The enslavement of immigrant workers in the Italian south has been an open secret for years.But although the gangmaster system, in which workers are exploited and poorly paid, was outlawed in 2016, law enforcement has not caught up: a recent report by the agricultural workers’ union, FLAI-CGIL, suggested that “about 100,000 (mostly foreign) workers are forced to suffer workplace blackmail and dilapidated living conditions”.A system of certification for Italian and international supermarkets to say that their produce is not the fruit of slavery has also failed to eradicate the practice.On the contrary: for decades, organised crime and discount supermarkets have forced down the price of raw products, reducing payment along the food supply chain and creating a system that inevitably punishes the most vulnerable.“This isn’t a comfortable message for supermarkets”, says Rachel Wilshaw, ethical trade manager at Oxfam, “but in squeezing their suppliers so hard commercially that they can only make a profit by exploiting workers, supermarkets themselves are driving the conditions that can result in modern slavery in their supply chain.”.The story of price reduction for agricultural produce in the Italian deep south began 40 years ago, in January 1979, when two lorry drivers headed south from Verona to purchase oranges.Throughout the 1980s, oranges were increasingly profitable.Throughout the 1980s and 90s, the Italian mafia bought land.In recent years, they are almost all in the agricultural sector.And organised crime doesn’t just control agricultural production, but also transport, commercialisation and the fruit markets.”.Many of the huge fruit-and-vegetable markets throughout Italy have also become bases for criminal organisations.Every year, before the harvest is in, certain supermarkets invite a supply price for their fresh produce.This is the supermarkets’ “double-down” auction, infamous for reducing prices on all produce.The tomato-growing season hadn’t even begun, but a supermarket chain was inviting a supply price for 20m tins of tomatoes.“It was like a game,” he told us, “and you had to keep going lower to stay in it.You didn’t even know if the other bids were real, or just a way to force down the price.”.Given the parlous state of the Italian economy in recent years, the double-down auction has, since 2014, become more common.Discount supermarkets – the main perpetrators – now account for almost 20% of the Italian market, and in Germany (a major consumer of Italian produce) the figure is at 40%.A trade union demonstration against the exploitation of migrant labourers in Italy, June 2018.The result is that tomatoes, oranges and other agricultural produce are now sold with no relation to how much they cost from the ground up, but solely how little the super-powerful supermarkets are prepared to pay from the top down.“The link between the cost of work and the price of the product has broken,” they wrote.Prices paid to tomato-processing companies, which turn the raw fruit into tins of tomatoes, concentrates, sauces and ketchups, are constantly forced down.In that context, it is hardly surprising if corners are cut.Farmers use gangmasters to provide the cheapest, most vulnerable labour, and don’t ask questions about the workers’ conditions.“The farmers make up for [diminishing margins]”, Sagnet and Palmisano wrote, “through the gangmasters … everyone makes money on the ones below, except for the very last in the chain, the labourers.”.That represents a price increase of 2,567%.Given that supermarkets are sourcing their oranges and tomatoes from crime-ridden areas of southern Italy, one might expect them to be circumspect about their suppliers.Both UK and Italian supermarkets defend themselves by the blanket use of Certification Bodies (CBs): these are companies paid by supermarket suppliers to provide an ethical audit of their businesses, thereby offering assurance that their goods meet environmental or humanitarian standards.Global Gap (an inspectorate for good agricultural practice founded in 1997 by retailers) is an organisation that has patented one methodology for such audits.But under the Global Gap method, only the square root of the total number of farms used by a processing plant is inspected (ie if there are 100 farms supplying a plant, only 10 will be inspected).“It’s simply not true that supermarkets are sourcing from farms that don’t exploit labourers,” he says.It was his first day of work; he had arrived from Sicily the day before.Using drones and wiretaps, an investigating magistrate, Paola Guglielmi, discovered that the farm was supplying processing plants owned by two of the biggest names in the Italian tomato industry, Mutti and Cirio.If you attempt to trace where Calabrian oranges, picked by enslaved labourers, end up, everyone goes silent.Since 2012, Fanta has stopped sourcing its oranges in Calabria.To get by, he went to pick tomatoes in Nardò with other African migrants.Despite violent threats (“Stop this strike or else consider yourself dead,” one gangmaster told him), he denounced the gangmasters to police.“We showed the whole of Italy what was really going on,” Sagnet told us.In December 2008, when an Ivorian in Rosarno was robbed of his entire savings and two more men were later shot, the labourers did something very rare for Rosarno: they organised a protest and denounced the criminals to the police.Cars were burned and shop windows smashed in the so-called “revolt of Rosarno” before a savage counter-revolt was organised by the mafia and neo-fascist organisations.Only the two immigrant gangmasters, and none of the Italians, were convicted.In May, another agricultural labourer died in a car crash in Foggia (he had no documents, so his nationality is unknown).Central to his message is the branding of modern slaves as criminals – saying nothing about slavery itself. .

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