Sunday, 22 February 2015

Why are our food

labelling laws so complex? 
Those of you in Upover may not be aware that we currently have alarm bells ringing here over the presence of the Hepatitis A virus in frozen berries that were sourced in part from China.
I try not to buy food sourced in China because I am well aware that the way they do things there is - well, different. The mother of my Chinese godchildren has warned me about this and advised against buying from there.
But, sometimes, it is inevitable that some food from dubious sources will enter our food chain. Even buying solely Downunder food would not solve the problem of potential contamination. I did buy some berries - and we have consumed them. So far we seem to be fine. I hope it stays that way. 
I bought the berries because I believed they were imported from New Zealand - where the food standards are as high as ours. But they weren't New Zealand grown. The berries were imported from China. They were mixed up with other berries from other sources and then exported to us.  So, why didn't I know? The word "China" appears nowhere on the box.
How hard is it to put the source on the box? It isn't of course. The failure to do so is about marketing - about the impression you want to give customers.
Our greengrocer is a rather remarkable man. He tries to source as much local produce as possible. If he can't get it locally then he will try to get it interstate - and only after that does he try elsewhere. And everything that is not sourced locally is labelled. If there is no label then you know it is a product of the state we live in. Otherwise it will be labelled New Zealand or USA or Mexico (garlic) or Peru (asparagus or berries). He has a small "freezer" section and the packets in there have to be clearly labelled with the source. 
Yes, he is a little more expensive than the supermarket but the quality is better and the shop is always busy. In the end I think I save money by shopping there. I waste less. 
So, if he can do it - why can't the supermarket do it? They look as if they do it but, in reality, they don't. It is just a few things like out of season lemons from the USA which get labelled. 
And all those other things on the shelves? Woolworth's, one of the two big supermarket chains here, has their "house brand".  About ten to fifteen years ago they really started pushing this. The shelves became more and more cluttered with the "WOW" brand. It was hard to find older brands on the shelves - the tried, true and trusted brands simply started to disappear.
"It's just as good," someone who works in the local Woolworth's told me.  I looked at her. I have known her for a good many years. She got a little defensive. We both know that no, some of it is not as good. It's the cheapest possible version. The bread is imported, half baked from the USA and sold as "fresh-baked" when they finish it off there. It's a small deception and one which worries me less than the failure to say where those "imported" ingredients in almost everything else come from.
I don't shop there if I can avoid it. I use the supermarket which tries to source as much local produce as possible and employs the students who need a job. It's a little more expensive - perhaps two dollars a week - but I think it's the right thing to do.
It wouldn't be hard to list the sources of origin. The simple reality is they don't want us to know. 
Why don't they want us to know? I think the Hepatitis A scare might be able to give us the answer to that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In the last few years there are a dozen or more products I can't find anymore ... some have been replaced by home brands, some have just disappeared although i think the companies are still producing ... and it is not just the big supermarkets. We have one of the smaller chains and their shelves are just as devoid of favourite products if not more so. (And they don't re-stack shelves from the back ... you have to check the use by date on everything.)