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Sometimes writing about the food world can be a huge downer. Take, for instance, this article from Time about Vietnamese heroin addicts forced to do up to five years of hard labor shelling cashews in the country’s 123 “drug-rehabilitation centers”.

Andrew Marshall reports that Human Rights Watch has evidence that cashews and other Vietnamese exports are being produced through forced labor and in terrible conditions.

“Those who refuse to work are beaten with truncheons, given electric shocks, locked in isolation, deprived of food and water, and obliged to work even longer hours, the report says. Joseph Amon, director of the New York City–based organization’s health and human-rights division, says what’s happening at the centers ‘constitutes torture under international law.’”

The article states that 40,000 people are being forced into “work-therapy,” which is not only difficult but potentially dangerous

“It is drab and unhealthy work: cashew oil is caustic and burns the skin. ‘I would sometimes inhale the dust from the skins, and that would make me cough,’ one man told HRW. ‘If the fluid from the hard outer husk got on your hands, it made a burn.’”

Ay ay ay. Just more evidence that if you don’t know exactly what you’re eating, it’s probably something terrible.

What’s a conscious cashew consumer to do? Luckily, there are companies sourcing cashews sustainably, like Nuts + Nuts in DUMBO. We spoke to Nuts + Nuts owner Cyrilla Suwarsa: her family buys cashews from small, family-run cashew farms near their home in central Java and ships them to Cyrilla for our snacking pleasure.


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