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Crashing the tomato party

(article, Culinate staff)

Two years ago, Gourmet's food-politics reporter Barry Estabrook published an investigative report on the shocking state of Florida's tomato industry, in which the vast majority of the fieldworkers were enslaved. The article went viral, winning a James Beard award and raising consumer awareness about the flavorless red orbs we take for granted. Now comes Estabrook's book about the subject, Tomatoland, in which the reporter goes beyond Florida to uncover the country's entire tomato industry.

Critical response has been widespread and enthusiastic, ranging from Mark Bittman (who calls on supermarkets to join with fast-food chains in helping to reform the tomato industry) to Estabrook's colleague Corby Kummer (who points to efforts to improve the situation of both the fieldworkers and the lowly tomato itself) to Jane Black (who despairs over tales of newborns deformed by pesticides and encourages consumers to grow their own tomatoes instead). 

The Atlantic's food channel, where Estabrook writes regularly these days, has posted both an excerpt from the new book and an Estabrook update on just how little the Florida government has done about its pesticide problem. Here's the opening salvo of the latter:

bq. No wonder Tea Party activists love Florida governor Rick Scott. To save a pittance on the state's budget, Scott, who has a personal net worth of more than $200 million, thanks in part to his having been president of a healthcare company that perpetrated the biggest medical fraud in United States history, vetoed a bill earlier this month that finally would have brought relief to 2,500 poverty-plagued African American farm laborers. Over the course of five decades, these people were poisoned on a daily basis by a witch's brew of pesticides.

Classic Estabrook. Eat it up.