‘Where does my food come from?’
A question that is no doubt important, but one that may not be thought about as often as it should be.
For many people, a trip to the supermarket means it’s time to stock up on essential items that are running low. Purchases such as these don’t usually involve much effort or thought. For many, the cheapest and most cost-efficient option is the one selected, but should we be putting more effort into understanding where the food we buy and eat comes from, rather than just the cost? How often do we check the country of origin labels on the packaged food we buy at the supermarket? Should we try to understand more clearly, or just trust that what we’re buying is safe?
These questions came to the forefront of many people’s minds when the news broke that a common household item, frozen berries, was leading to cases of Hepatitis A across Australia. As a result Nanna’s frozen mixed berries and raspberries were recalled and taken off supermarket shelves, but that was just the beginning.
When the news broke, it caused an immediate ripple of questions.
“How safe is our food?”
“Will I get sick?”
“What brands can we trust?”
I, for one, became immediately concerned, as I frequently used Nanna’s raspberries in smoothies and, just the day before hearing the news, had bought a new packet to replenish my ever-dwindling supply. Nanna’s has always been my first choice brand, largely due to bag size and price.
Like many others, I didn’t know that Nanna’s, a branch of the Australia food manufacturing company, Patties Foods, imported all of their berries. This is largely due to the ambiguity or lack of visibility regarding “made in”, “packed in” or “imported from” disclaimers. The vagueness of such labels can be misleading and confusing to many who don’t understand what they mean, or to those who don’t even look for the information in the first place. We must now ask, is it time to make a decision on how to regulate these labels? How clear should they be? Where should they be? And how specific must they be so that we don’t get caught out again?
An outcome of the event is the questioning of imported products. Are they better than the alternative of more expensive local products? Should we sacrifice quality for money? How likely we likely to pass up a great bargain in favour of knowledge about exactly where our food is produced, treated and packed?
Off the back of the scare, Australian family-owned company of Rebello Wines and Cheeky Rascal Cider have decided to take the leap and expand their berry farm, Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm, to create Australia’s first commercial frozen berry brand, Matilda’s Frozen Fruit.
According to reports, Matilda’s will be available in supermarkets by June at an elevated cost to consumers. The lack of hygiene standards in the countries that produce many of our frozen foods is a factor that led to the scare and by choosing brands like Matilda’s the uncertainty about health, safety and quality is removed. So it’s time to make a decision – what’s more important: peace of mind about the quality of our food or saving a few dollars?
To consumers, the knowledge about that what they are eating and what they’re feeding to their kids may provide comfort about the safety, health, and quality of their food, which may greatly outweigh the additional cost that will be incurred by buying locally grown and packed food. As SBS reports, for some consumers this is indeed the case.
It’s time to make some decisions – should more commercial Australian products be available in our supermarkets? And will we be willing to pay a bit extra for peace of mind about the safety and quality of our food?
One thing is for sure, I will definitely be thinking more closely about where my food is coming from before deciding which option to choose, and worrying less about cost and more about the healthiness of what I’m eating.
What about you?