The real cost of supermarket fruit


In our latest joint investigation with Channel 4 News we’ve been undercover investigating conditions for some those picking and packing supermarket fruit at a major packhouse facility in Kent. What we found was shocking and has provoked an immediate outcry. Our undercover reporter experienced first hand the highly-pressured environment at the Mansfields packhouse at Chartham, with managers breathing down workers’ necks to meet strict targets.

Some of the workers live in appalling conditions that they say are supplied by the agency they work for – and that some say aren’t fit for animals. The packhouse supplies fruit to top retailers, and after our evidence was broadcast Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer have all told Channel 4 News they have launched investigations into the conditions. And one supermarket, Aldi, has suspended its orders. The Gangmasters Licensing Authority has also launched an investigation into our findings.

You can watch part 1 of our exclusive investigation, and read the background here. Part 2 of the story follows tonight (Tuesday, 20th October). The investigation follows our reporting earlier this year which highlighted the plight of migrants harvesting salad on farms in Spain, much of destined for UK supermarkets.

Who is picking our food?

Previous Ecostorm investigations into the exploitation and abuse of migrant workers during southern Italy’s annual orange and tomato harvests generated widespread revulsion and much international interest in these under-reported issues when they first published.

The first of our hard-hitting reports documented the plight of African migrants scratching a living in Basilicata’s tomato fields, revealing how farmers operate with apparent impunity when employing migrants for poverty wages; the squalid living conditions many workers are forced to endure; and how major UK retailers profit from the suffering.

The second in our series revealed the links between Coca Cola and the use of migrant workers in Rosarno’s orange harvest prompting an outcry in Italy and putting the issue firmly on the map.

Other reports into the often shocking conditions for workers in modern day supply chains can be found here