Just a quickie this morning as I digest some yogurt and strawberries before hitting the workout.
I got to thinking about this blog entry after reading the label on my strawberries. By now we’re all good at reading food labels for nutritional information and ingredients (You DO read labels before buying and/or eating, right?), but do you ever read where the product comes from? The label from the strawberries I bought yesterday is marked “Product of Mexico.” Seems reasonable. We can’t grow strawberries in the snow so of course we’d import them from Mexico or other Central and South American countries. Ditto on bananas, coffee, sugar and other food items.
The tea I drink is “blended” by Celestial Seasonings in Boulder, but the ingredients come from all over the world. Curious about their importing philosophy, I did a quick Internet search and was heartened to read the company’s ethical trade statement online: “We’ve had relationships with many growers around the world for more than 30 years, and it’s very important to us that workers are treated fairly and with respect, and that farming techniques support environmental health and economic growth. The growers are our partners, and together, we ensure the botanicals Celestial Seasonings purchases are collected or harvested with minimal impact on the environment, while local jobs and businesses are nurtured.”
I’m pretty sure that’s not a policy readily embraced by Chinese (or even some U.S.) manufacturers. Given the propensity for profits over the health of pets and babies, I am extremely wary of goods imported from China.
Take garlic powder. The McCormick brand is almost $2 more than the Wal-Mart house brand. The McCormick company has a commitment to sustainability and social responsibility and their product is clearly marked “Product of USA.” The Wal-Mart brand is marked “Product of China.” I pony up the $2 in hopes that McCormick truly is committed to the health of its consumers over profit.
I realize it’s nearly impossible to avoid food products made in China, particularly the frozen and processed varieties. But by staying informed (read the Washington Post story “Tainted Chinese imports Common”, for instance), I’m trying to be more aware of where my food comes from. Labels aren’t always marked, and in the case of food made with several ingredients, it’s impossible to know where each of those ingredients came from.
Think about it: we put a lot of trust in the people who grow, manufacture, import, and inspect our food. Aside from the produce and meat I buy from local and regional farmers, I don’t know the people who grow and pick and make my food. Kind of creeps me out a little.
Nothing like a little paranoia on an early Sunday morning. Sorry about that. I’m curious, though: Do you read labels? Do you know where your food comes from? Any strategies for learning more?