What’s on your pantry shelves?

November 28, 2007

Lots of NOINFOCO–no information on country of origin.

Have you noticed how many canned and prepared food items say only “distributed by” instead of “product of USA” or product of any country? If I choose to buy banana chips, as I did this week, I know the package says “product of the Philippines,” and I can decide if I trust our long relationship with that country, and are the standards for pesticides, herbicides and cleanliness the same. Many of the items I put in the basket say, “product of Canada.” I’m OK with that. What’s more American than pumpkin pie in November? But do you know from the Libby’s label? “100% pure pumpkin produced and distributed by Nestle USA.” That really doesn’t tell me where the pumpkin was grown, stored, cooked, canned or shipped does it? NOINFOCO.

This week I had one clear winner for clarity in the grocery cart. The bag of Eagle Eye Idaho Potatoes said “grown in Idaho” 3 times, as well as “produce of USA,” and “packaged in Idaho.” Can’t be anymore forthright about their product than that.

Compare that to these Meijer brands I bought: Select Black Beans, Chunky Applesauce, Lite Pear Halves, and Cream of Mushroom Soup. All are “Distributed by Meijer of Grand Rapids, MI” with no information on where they were grown, produced or packaged. I’m told on the label percentage of calcium and Vit. C, the mg of sodium and cholesterol, the grams of fiber and protein, the serving size, how many servings in the container and the calories, how many calories are from fat, what ingredients are inside the can or package, how to cook it or serve it, how to store it after it’s opened, and a “use by” date. And depending on the company, I could practice my Spanish, or have a label so cluttered, I can’t even find the English words. Even the Meijer Organics Golden Sweet Corn with a seal that reads “USA organic” just may be saying there’s a standard in the USA for certifying something is organic. It doesn’t really say it was produced here.

Now that we’re seeing corn being grown everywhere so we can burn it in our gas tanks, I think it’s time to make sure you know where the food is coming from that used to be grown in Ohio or Indiana or Iowa. This is a safety issue just like the lead paint in toys or the salmonella in lettuce greens. Anything can happen even with locally grown produce, but the USA does have standards and regulations governing production and distribution. We learned from the China toys and pet food fiascos that neither the corporations nor the US government were checking to make sure those products were produced the way they were supposed to be. (China has no tradition of contract law and feels no obligation to do what they say they will do.)

So why can’t we consumers be a bit more proactive, why doesn’t the FDA and the USDA require “country of origin” or “product of. . .” which would be more helpful than having everyone switch from transfat to palm oil? Ask your congressional representative to . . . represent YOU. This is not a liberal or conservative issue. It’s about being an informed consumer. Let’s not have another food scare which will create another layer of bureaucracy after finger pointing and hearings with movie stars giving us advice. Act now.

By Norma



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