Organic food gets a nice seal of approval from the USDA that we can all see on the package. And meats imported from abroad must be labeled with their country of origin. (COOL Legislation).
But some markings on foods are not regulated at all. The most common is the “Natural” label which has been slapped on every kind of food imaginable.it is meaningless in that “natural” in no way means “healthy”.
The latest trend is to mark foods as “local”. But what does local mean? Fresher, Tastier, Healthier, and Better for planet Earth? The Guardian, a well respected UK newspaper, asks, and immediately answers:
Has ‘local’ become as meaningless as ‘natural’?
It is the latest supermarket buzz word, which is vague at best and misleading at the very worst
For a couple of years now we’ve been told that local is the new organic, the next fad for the ethically-minded food shopper. And, hey, it’s true! How do I know? Because the supermarkets have got hold of the idea. Sales of “local” foods and drinks are up 30% at Tesco, 41% at Asda. “Local” is as big as fish now, says Asda. The store is “very proud” to be stocking 6,500 “local” lines.
What you need to know:
Food manufacturers and supermarkets have one goal – to sell us as much as possible. The creative marketing people working for these corporations have a keen sense for what is popular with the public. And they know very well to translate it into messages that play all the right chords on our mind.
Low-fat was a big hit, then low-carb. Organic is huge, despite a current blow due to the faltering economy.
And Local has now become the flavor de jour. Never mind the little discrepancies, such as the food actually arriving from hundreds of miles away, or stored for 6 months in chillers, or picked from a nearby orchard but shipped halfway across the country to a sorting and washing facility.
What to do at the supermarket:
As Mark Bittman, cookbook author and NY Times food writer explains:
You can’t trust the supermarket companies to sell you only good, wholesome food. Yet they’ll try to convince you that everything they sell is exactly that. So: skip the [marketing] labels, watch what you buy, and strive for goodness, no matter where you find it.
Keep this in mind the next time you shop at the supermarket. Or, try a farmers market nearby. It’s springtime and there should be one open near you every weekend.
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