Warhol’s Tomato Soup Can


It is one of the most iconic artworks from the 20th century. Some of us love it, some of us hate it, but we all know it and have seen it countless times.
 
But let’s take a different look- let’s think about the tomatoes that were inside the famous can.

 

 

 

 

We all buy canned tomatoes regularly, but very few of us know where they come from, or know that they are closely linked to the modern slave trade. 
 
Italy’s Mafia makes MILLIONS of Euros a year from these tomatoes by exploiting the country’s African and Eastern European immigrant work force. The majority of workers are paid a wage far below, and work hours much longer than union standards. Some workers may also lack resident papers or work permits, and therefore can not rely on the law to protect them.
 
Supermarkets remain blissfully ignorant- pushing down prices as much as possible to maximize profit. Supply chains are intentionally long and hard to trace, to cover the true source of their produce. Often the certification process to authenticate the ‘ethics’ of suppliers is paid for by the suppliers themselves and therefore completely unreliable.
 
We are sure Warhol had no idea about the journey a simple can of tomato soup had been on before it reached him, I know we didn’t until recently. After further research, we have found a number of ethical way to buy these products- keep an eye out for brands such as Mr Organic, Suma, Biona and Essential Tinned Tomatoes in particular.
 
We first heard about this issue via The Tip Off podcast in an episode called ‘Canned Tomatoes’, which we would highly recommend listening to if you want to find out more.