An investigation has revealed that farmers in Italy are working under ‘conditions of absolute exploitation’ in order to produce supermarket tinned tomatoes.
Food giants Mutti and Conserve Italia, the latter of which produce tinned tomatoes for Tesco, have been named by an Italian court prosecutor after an investigation into the death of a labourer in 2015.
Abdullah Muhammed, a 47-year-old legal Sudanese immigrant and father of two, suffered a heart attack while working in the fields of Nardó in July 2015.
“That guy would not have died if there had been a doctor’s visit. The violation of the safety provisions on the job was flagrant,” Italian prosecutor Paola Guglielmi told The Guardian.
It was during the investigation that the Italian courts uncovered string of harrowing Labour abuses.
Court documents revealed that migrant workers were expected to work for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, without breaks, with minimal pay and no access to medical staff.
The industry, which sees a lot of farmers operate under the “caporalato”, or gangmaster system, sees migrants organised into informal labour groups that are hired by Italian landowners to harvest their crops.
As a consequence, workers have to pay half their nominal wage as a “cut” to the gangmasters.
“This is a tragic case and we expect the Italian authorities to carry out a full investigation,” said Zoe Maddison, spokesperson for the British Retail Consortium (BRC) which represents Tesco and Sainsbury’s to The Guardian.
“The welfare of all people who work in our supply chains is of key importance to us, and BRC members will investigate any allegations of malpractice.”
Italy makes a €3.2bn (£2.85bn) profit from the processed tomato industry each year.
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