Tomato firm’s ad triggers southern Italians’ outrage

The Guardian, ROME

Wed, Nov 06, 2013 - Page 7

Southern Italians who swear by the quality of their sun-ripened tomatoes have long winced at horror stories about the mafia dumping toxic waste in farmland around Naples, driving down the reputation of local produce and allegedly pushing cancer rates up.

However, southern pride has turned to rage after Pomi, a tomato producer from Lombardy in northern Italy, appeared to take advantage of newly disclosed allegations in a series of newspaper advertisements over the weekend.

Over a map of Italy with a tomato stuck firmly on Lombardy, the ads state: “Only from here. Only Pomi.”

The ads followed a decision last week to lift a secrecy gag on a speech given by the mob turncoat Carmine Schiavone to parliament’s anti-mafia commission in 1997. In the speech Schiavone gave details of the Camorra mafia’s dumping of a reported 800,000 tonnes of industrial waste in fields around the mob stronghold of Casale di Principe, where the nightly burning of waste earned the area the nickname “Land of Fire.”

Local residents “all risk dying within 20 years,” Schiavone told the commission.

The Pomi ads made no mention of waste dumping around Naples, but southern politicians were quick to suspect the firm of profiting from their misfortune.

“The company in question must withdraw the advertising immediately and pay damages for the material and moral damages to our land,” said Paolo Romano, president of the Campania regional council, who noted that most of the waste dumped in his region came from northern firms.

Daniela Nugnes, the region’s agricultural assessor, said “a very small part” of the region’s farmland had been polluted and Pomi’s ad was tantamount to discrimination.

In Lombardy, a manager at the agricultural consortium that owns Pomi said he was surprised at the uproar, pointing out that firm had long made a point of indicating the local origin of its tomatoes.