Coming to a supermarket near you? Mafia-Free Pasta

15 May

As North American consumers, we have become increasingly aware of ethical considerations of the food and products we consume,  and the impact they have – not only on our bodies when we consume them, but the communities that produce them.

More and more labels document this trend and support our desire to chose products with a more positive environmental, health and social impact – organic food; locally sourced produce; fair trade coffee & chocolate; biodynamic wines; chemical-free cosmetics (gratuitous plug for LAVISH Rose Creme); to name just a few.

Shopping in Rome last week I saw something new…

…That’s right: Mafia-Free Pasta.  It  seemed comical…it reminded me of Alessandro’s story about his father’s friend who raised beef cattle.  When it came time to sell the cattle, the farmer would give the cattle salt licks, and afterwards would allow the cattle to drink as much water as they could consume – increasing the weight, and sale price drastically.

But further research showed Mafia-Free Pasta was no laughing matter. There is an interesting story in the UK Guardian here on the topic. According to the article, “over 80% of Sicilian businesses pay pizzo (protection money) to the mafia including hotels, restaurants and cafes.” A growing number of small Italian producers are taking a stand against the pressure imposed by the mafia in agricultural regions of Italy, and the wheat for this pasta was actually grown on land seized from a jailed mafia kingpin.  In past years the local mafia has waged a reign of terror against any local business who did not pay the pizzo, or caused interference in illegal activities – so this is a remarkable stand for a group of courageous business owners.

In North America, we tend to have a somewhat romanticized vision of the mafia from movies like The Godfather; the truth is that the mafia has had a devastating impact on southern Italian families and communities. if you are traveling to Sicily, look out for businesses that are members of “Addiopizzo” literally “goodbye protection money” or “Libero Futuro” to put your money where your values are.  The later organization is named after Libero Grassi, “a local pyjama maker who publicly refused to pay pizzo and was gunned down in 1991.” Hopefully some of these Mafia-Free products will start to reach our supermarkets in Canada & the US, and we can support this Italian-grown ethical food movement.

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2 Responses to “Coming to a supermarket near you? Mafia-Free Pasta”

  1. Francisca May 15, 2011 at 10:35 pm #

    Goons with guns can make my blood boil… wherever they are. (You know they are rife in Asia, too, and there is nothing romantic about it,) These pasta makers and others standing up to them are brave indeed. I just wonder when the population will vote these criminals – politicians in mafia pockets – out of their government.

    • A Life in Rome... May 15, 2011 at 11:17 pm #

      good question. it appears to be the opinion of some – that since the system is so corrupt, that it requires corrupt politicians to be effective in it. thus, an infinite cycle.

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