Modern Day Slavery on Tomato Farms

June 19, 2011

America's favorite fruit has an extremely troubling dark side. Tomatoes are one of the most popular foods in the country and go into many of our favorite foods like pizza, pasta and salads. That means tomatoes are big business. 

Florida alone grows more than 1 billion tons of the fruit annually and Americans purchase more than $5 billion worth of tomatoes annually. Another shocking fact comes courtesy of nutritional studies, which find that today's tomato contains 14 times as much sodium as its 1960s counterpart. 

That's not even mentioning the labor conditions of tomato pickers. On a good day, an efficient tomato picker earns $70. Those days are not often though and workers earn a percentage of their income based on how many bushels of tomatoes they pick. Bad weather, a poor harvest or other unexpected setbacks could mean no money at all. 

Barry Estabrook outlines these facts and many more in his new book, "Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit." An excerpt is available from Gilt Taste. It's well worth the read. Tomatoes are yet another hidden example of factory farming. 

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