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In Italy, mob-free food

(article, Culinate staff)

Some of us have gotten a little jaded about food labels, a situation that wasn't helped by the recent Smart Choices flap.

But in Italy there's a label that, more and more, cooks are watching for: the Libera Terra label, which designates Mafia-free food.  

According to an article by Irene Peroni over on the Global Post, this food — including such Italian favorites as wine, olive oil, pasta, and tomato sauce — is grown on Sicilian acreage that's been confiscated from local mobsters. 

Young people who are members of a cooperative now do most of the farming — and they've turned it into a money-making venture.

But given the history of the land they cultivate, theirs is not always an easy job:

bq. “When we first started, nobody from the towns nearby wanted to come and thresh our wheat,” said the cooperative's vice chairwoman Francesca Massimino. “Cultivating seized land was something unprecedented, and people didn’t want to be seen as working for us. Eventually, military police had to look up a local contractor and literally force him to come here with his threshing machine to do the job.”

Said another cooperative member:

bq.“Denying that there is some degree of fear would not be right . . . Our people go to work in the fields at five o’clock in the morning: they are alone, isolated, and they know all too well who used to own that land.”

Now, several years after its establishment, Libera Terra food, sought after for its high quality, can be found in specialty stores and supermarkets throughout Italy.