Bananas are soft, delicious and easy to digest. They have been enticingly emblematic of exotic lands since colonials brought them back from the tropics, across the oceans in the late 1800s.
Today in the UK, we eat 5 billion a year. A gargantuan 17 million tonnes are exported and sold globally. But due to their potassium-laden popularity, and subsequent global demand there are a bunch of corporate exploitations and human rights infringements to consider.
Buy bananas from The Co-Op, Waitrose or Sainsbury's.
Avoid Dole, Del Monte and Chiquiata.
Bananas turn up in 90% of British shopping baskets. In the 1990s, they became a war zone of supermarkets slashing prices, with each one trying to out do the other in a rush for customers.
The price of loose bananas has almost halved over the past 10 years, so that almost no one along the supply chain makes any money from bananas. Yet more than eight in ten shoppers surveyed said that they would pay more for their bananas if the farmers and workers who produced them benefited.
The Co-operative, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose already source 100% Fairtrade bananas.
Asda and Tesco sell half the UK's bananas, but only offer 10% Fairtrade.
Many of the giant brands like Dole, Del Monte and Chiquita have horrible histories and allegations of exposing workers to dangerous chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and synthetic fertilisers.
Chemical pesticides are often applied through aerial application or crop dusting — spraying chemicals from an aircraft. It is estimated that only around 15% of these agrochemicals actually land on the crop.
These chemicals have been known to have significant toxifying effects on neurological function and infertility of their workers, famously Dole's court case of poisoning in the 70s.
Big multi-national brands American Dole, Del Monte and Chiquita have long been accused of human rights infringements on banana plantations.
Subjecting workers to long, laborious working days, intimidation and even murder as well as destruction of union infrastructure and child labour.
The best way to influence fair conditions for workers is by buying fair trade, to guarantee a minimum price on their produce.
In the book How Bad Are Bananas? it is argued that despite their exotic origins, bananas offer an abundance of nutritional vitamins and fibres for the 80g of carbon they cost. The book says they are grown easily in natural light, and can be transported slowly by boat due to their thick, protective skin.
However, it is always a bit of good training to try and limit the amount of tropical, overseas imports in diets, and to try and more commonly revert to foods from nearer home.
A banana only actually contains 8-13% of your daily dosage of potassium. There are plenty of other even greater sources of potassium including green-tops of beetroots as well as spinach, sweet potatoes, soya beans and avocado. Potassium supports balanced blood pressure, cardiovascular health, bone strength, and muscle strength.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Avoid the big brands Chiquita, Del Monte, and Dole as these companies are consistently rumbled causing illegal and unethical situations for workers as well as wide spread use of. dangerous and environmentally degrading chemicals.
Sainsburys, The Co-Op and Waitrose have the best track record for supporting Fairtrade.