Grocery

Avocado

Avocado (grown in Israel, eaten in the UK)
Undergraduate dissertation (2007): student Freddie Abrahams is shocked to discover that the Israeli avocados he eats may be grown on illegally seized Palestinian land. There's a campaign going on in the UK to boycott these fruits. So he contacts the company that imports them into the UK and travels to Israel to find out more. Click for more...

Bananas

Bananas (grown in Nicaragua, eaten worldwide)
Documentary film (2009): filmmaker Fredrik Gertten tracks a legal case in which Nicaraguan banana workers sue Dole in the American courts for exposing them to a banned pesticide which has (allegedly) made them impotent. A Dole executive admits this in court, but Dole try to discredit their lawyers and prevent the film from being shown. Click for more...

Beef

Beef (reared, slaughtered and sold in Russia)
Documentary film (1924): when the genre of documentary film was in its infancy, Russian filmmaker Dziga Vertov used it to show how food shopping involves relations with hidden places, processes and people. He follows a cut of meat from a market, via the slaughterhouse where it's put back into the cow, and via the train that returns the cow to the fields where it grazed. Click for more...

Beef

Bottled water (sourced in Bhopal, served in Bhopal & Staines)
Spoof commodity (2009): it's the 25th anniversary of the Union Carbide chemical factory explosion in Bhopal, India. It's the worst industrial accident in history, and the owners still refuse to pay compensation to its victims. So the Bhopal Medical Appeal get together with pranksters the Yes Men to design a new brand of bottled water. It lets you taste the toxins in Bhopal's groundwater. They challenge Dow executives to drink it, like Bhopal residents have for 25 years. Why won't they? Click for more...

Brocolli

Broccoli (grown in Guatemala, eaten in the USA)
Academic book (2006): American consumers' desire for cheap produce meets Maya farmers' desire for a decent livelihood in this book by Edward Fischer and Peter Benson. Moving between Guatemala and Nashville, TN, the authors seek to illustrate the connections between these seemingly disparate places and people. Click for more...

Brocolli

Burgers and fries (ingredents sourced worldwide, food eaten worldwide)
Documentary film (1998/2005): a gardener and a postman hand out leaflets outside McDonald's restaurants. Thet tell consumers what's wrong with the company and it's food. McDonald's sues them for libel. What ensues is the UK's longest libel trial. Some say it's the 'biggest public relations blunder in the history of public relations blunders'. Filmmaker Franny Armstrong documents it all. TV stations won't show her film, but it becomes a 'cult classic' nevertheless. Click for more...

Chewing gum

Chewing gum (manufactured & eaten in the UK)
Undergraduate coursework (2004): student Lucy Mayblin is walking to class. She steps in chewing gum recently spat from someone else's mouth. It's stuck to her shoe. But what exactly is stuck to her shoe, and why? She searches the internet to find out more about gum. What she finds out is shocking. But is it true? Click for more...

Chicken

Chicken (reared & eaten in the UK)
TV documentary series (2008): celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall wants more free range chickens made available in British supermarkets and to put an end to the cruelty of cheap chicken farming. The series follows his campaign against the supermarkets, and the local people he enrolls in it, some of whom don't think they can afford this luxury. Click for more...

Mickey & Friends: Haunted Halloween' book

Chocolate (ingredients grown in Ivory Coast, consumed in Finland)
Corporate charity fundraising campaign (2012): Finland's favourite chocolate company Fazer takes out a full front page ad in a leading daily newspaper. They promise to give 5 cents from every bar of Fazer Blue to a school building project in the Ivory Coast. This is where the company's cocoa beans are grown by child slaves. Do these children need a school or something more from Fazer? Click for more... in English or in Finnish

Cockles

Cockles (picked & eaten in the UK)
Film (2006): in February 2004, at least 21 illegal Chinese migrant workers drowned at night while picking cockles in Morecambe Bay. Filmmaker Nick Broomfield reconstructs the causes, vividly conveying - in the UK - the kinds of exploitative working conditions stereotypically associated with the 'Third world' production of supermarket foods. Click for more...

Coffee

Coffee (sold in Starbucks, drunk by Occupy LSX participants outside St Paul's cathedral, London)
TV satirical news panel show segment (2011): the Occupy camp outside London's St Paul's cathedral has just become mainstream news in the UK. Conservative MP Louise Mensch appears on the BBC's Have I got news for you show. Panelists are asked to comment on the story. She says you can't be against capitalism when you're enjoying its fruits, like fancy tents, iPhones and Starbucks coffee. The others disagree. Click for more...

Coffee

Coffee (grown in Ethiopia, drunk in the USA and UK)
Documentary film (2007): filmmakers Marc and Nick Francis follow Tadesse Maskela, a representative of an Ethiopian coffee co-operative, as he travels the world trying to get a better price for his farmers' coffee. He is irritated that importers such as Starbucks are making massive profits with their coffee while the people who grow it in 'the home of coffee' don't even have schools, clean water or healthcare. Click for more...

Coffee

Corn (grown in Iowa, USA, eaten in countless foods in the USA)
Documentary film (2007): what better way to find out where your food comes from than growing it yourself and following where it goes? That's what college friends Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis do with an acre of corn. Not the corn you eat on the cob, though. Their corn tastes horrible. It's a starch crop that ends up as an ingredient in countless other foods: meat, twinkies, soda. You can't get away from it. But who controls this trade? And who is if good for? Click for more...

Mange tout

Mange Tout (snow peas) (grown in Zimbabwe, eaten in the UK)
TV documentary (1997): filmmaker Mark Phillips finds out what goes into the production of Mange Tout peas in Zimbabwe for the UK's Tesco supermarkets. The film shows what growers, supermarket buyers and consumers know & imagine about each others' lives, and how worlds collide when buyers make inspection visits. Click for more...

Milk

Milk (produced in Latvia, sold in Holland)
Locative art-mapping project (2004-5): artists Esther Polak and Ieva Auzina use GPS to track the travels of milk from Latvian cows to Dutch cheese sellers. They photograph and interview farmers, truckers and others involved, and show them the lines that their travels trace on a map. The installation and website they create are, for many, surprisingly intimate. Click for more...

Nuts


Nut selection
(product of more than one country for more than one market)
Animated film (2002): who could better explain the rules of international trade than a peanut? Filmmaker Emily James uses animation to bring him alive, to create a character who sings songs, and introduces guests to explain why some nuts are 'luckier' than others in the world. Click for more...

Papaya

Papaya (paw paw) (grown in Jamaica, eaten in the UK)
Academic journal paper (2004): geographer Ian Cook finds out where the fresh papaya sold in UK supermarkets are grown. He talks to a farm worker, foreman and manager in Jamaica, and an importer, supermarket buyer and consumer in the UK about their lives and how they are related through the trade and travels of this fruit. Click for more...

Ploughman sandwich


Ploughman sandwich
(ingredients from the UK, made in the UK, eaten in the UK)
Facebook page (2010): a group of Exeter undergraduates want to follow a local sandwich whose producers and consumers know each other. They visit people who make and sell it. They study 'his' social network, and make 'him' a facebook page. He's 'in a relationship with cheese.' Friend him! Click for more...

sugar

Sugar (grown in the Caribbean, consumed in the UK)
Academic/popular book (1985): after living and working with sugar cane workers in Puerto Rico, anthropologist Sidney Mintz began to wonder about how sugar cane had become such an important crop, and how its cultures of production and consumption had developed over time. He wanted to write for both academic and everyday readers, starting a new genre of books about things. Click for more...

sugar

Sushi (bluefin tuna caught worldwide, graded in Japan, consumed worldwide)
Academic/popular journal article (2000): if you want the best bluefin tuna for your sushi, it has to be graded in the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. But the fish are farmed and caught in the Meditteranean, the Atlantic and elsewhere. And the restaurants where you can eat it are all over the world. So whose lives are connected through this inricate global trade? How did it develop? And what can sushi tell us about globalization? Click for more...

Tea

Takeaway (grown,caught & processed in Indonesia & Thailand, eaten in the UK)
TV documentary series (2009): six young takeaway-loving Brits travel to the places where the tuna, prawns, rice and chicken that they eat so much of at home are produced. They work alongside food factory and farm workers, earn and spend the same money, and live in the same places. They find this difficult and upsetting, especially those who have never worked like this before. This is 'car crash' reality TV at its best (or worst). But what do they, and we, learn from this? Click for more...

Tea

Tea (grown in Sri Lanka, drunk in the UK)
Newspaper article (2002): journalist Fran Abrams chooses the quintessentially 'English' cup of tea, and goes on a 5,500 mile journey to a tea estate in the hills of Sri Lanka. Along the way, she meets people whose lives are devoted to getting that tea made and sold, from executives working for Twinings tea company to estate workers and their families. Click for more...

Tea

Tea (grown in Sri Lanka, drunk in the UK)
Undergraduate dissertation (2003): student Sarah Wrathmell follows a box of 'Tillings' tea from a plantation in Kandy, Sri Lanka to a pot of tea shared by a group of friends in home counties England. She talks to pickers, packers and drivers; visits tea factories and talks to people tasting, processing and packaging it to exacting standards; and finally drinks that tea with those drinkers. What, she asks, was 'in' that box of tea? Click for more...

Tiger prawns

Tiger prawns+ (farmed in Bangladesh, eaten in the UK)
Non-fiction book (2008): journalist Fred Pearce travels 180,000 miles, to 20+ countries, to meet the people who produce (and sometimes recycle) the prawns in his curry, the cotton in his socks, the computer on his desk, the gold in his wedding ring, and many others. He wants to explore his own personal footprint, and to work out whether he should be ashamed and/or proud of the impact his shopping has on the world. Click for more...

Tomato

Tomato (grown in Mexico, eaten in North America)
Academic book (2002): environmental studies professor Deborah Barndt spends five years studying the travels of fresh tomatoes between Mexico and the US and Canada. This book is part of a larger project in which tomato growers, truckers, checkout workers and others in the chain are active participants in the research process. Click for more...

Tomato

Tomato (grown and eaten in Brazil by people and pigs)
'Documentary' film (1989): it sounds simple: fillmaker Jorge Furtado follows the life of a tomato from field to garbage dump in Porto Allegre, Brazil. But this is no ordinary film. Its footage doesn't always seem 'real'. Its voiceover is eccentric but is delivered in a boring monotone. It's full of quick cuts between scenes and ideas that seem to be tangents. It's hilarious but deeply troubling. And, untimately, it trashes the way that capitalism values people, animals and the environment. Click for more...