Under Cane – the documentary on the deaths in sugar production in Central America

In the last decade, thousands of sugarcane workers in the Central American sugarcane industry have already died because of the chronic kidney disease CKDnT. . The documentary Under Cane by filmmaker Ed Kashi shows the toll of this kidney disease.


We are aware that Under Cane is an intense documentary, but unfortunately this is the reality: the issue of chronic kidney disease CKDnT in the sugarcane industry in Central America is huge and even life-threatening. We are convinced that this reality CANNOT be ignored.

We all consume sugar

Sugarcane is used in many, many products. Not only in the food products you would think of like raw sugar, chocolate and soda, but also in bread, salad dressings, rum and almost any composed food product. And it is also used to create biodegradable plastics, medication and fuel. We all use tons of sugar on a daily basis and therefore we ALL are responsible the issues behind our sugar.

Solutions are simple

This sounds harsh and demotivating. But wait, there’s hope! As it is like with almost all labour issues behind our food products, change is possible and sometimes even very simple! In the case of the chronic kidney disease CKDnT, workers should have:

  • access to adequate clean drinking water;
  • access to shade;
  • regular breaks;
  • less physical strain and healthy working hours

Further, allowing them the right to organise and collectively bargain will largely increase their opportunities to stand up for their rights.

How to create change?

We all have a role to play in creating a fair food supply chain. Fairfood works together with food brands, supermarkets and governments to tackle the extreme inequalities that exist in our food chain: governments should create the regulatory landscape that ensure a safe and healthy work environment for all and enable workers to stand up for their rights, food brands and supermarkets should use their power to improve the working conditions in their supply chains and ensure their freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining and association. . As a consumer you can contribute by shopping consciously and becoming a member of our supporter community.

Sugarcane project

In our Sugarcane project we are working, together with CNV International and ICAES on ensuring safe and healthy working conditions in Central America that prevent workers from getting CKDnT and ensuring that workers are able to stand up for the rights. We are talking to Central American and European governments, sugarcane mills in Central America and food and beverage companies – like Diageo and Bacardi – who source their sugarcane from Central America. We also work together with local NGOs, labour confederations and research instituteson the ground in order to create positive change in the industry.

Want to learn more? Watch our Animation Video ‘What’s on your plate – the story of your food’.