Commentary: New Zealand consumers may be buying slave-picked tomatoes from Italy

Author: Nikki Mandow, Newsroom, Published on: 11 October 2019

"Are we buying slave-picked tinned tomatoes?", 5 October 2019

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Reporters...travelled to Italy to look at conditions on tomato farms. They found thousands of migrant workers, mostly from Africa and often without papers, working long hours in gruelling conditions, and living in "isolated rural ruins or shanty towns".

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...How can New Zealand consumers tell whether their tinned tomatoes are ethically-sourced?

Rebekah Armstrong was until recently advisory and research manager at the NZ Human Rights Commission and chair of the Human Trafficking Research Coalition...says exploitation is a huge problem in food production internationally and New Zealanders are certainly buying unethically-sourced food.

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...New Zealand's two main supermarket companies - Woolworths (which owns Countdown stores) and Foodstuffs (which owns New World and Pak'nSave) appear unable to answer. Neither was prepared to make a human being available to be interviewed for this story, though both issued written statements.

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New Zealand-owned chain Foodstuffs also sends Newsroom a statement in response to questions. ..."If suppliers are based in countries where human rights or labour practices may be in doubt, then we request certification from independent organisations such as Bureau Veritas .... Independent audits are also provided by a number of our suppliers as part of their standard business practice. Our private label team regularly visits suppliers."

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So how does a consumer choose? Noel Josephson, chief executive of Ceres Organics...says...guaranteeing your product is slavery-free doesn't come cheap.

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Armstrong says New Zealand should look at modern slavery legislation to get companies to take human rights seriously.

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But New Zealand has no such legislation on the cards, and Armstrong says many Kiwi companies and consumers are more worried about price than people.

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Read the full post here

Related companies: Ceres Organics Foodstuffs Woolworths Group