As a staunch label reader, I was both delighted and afraid of what I might see with the new FDA labeling requirements that came out a few years ago. The law finally required meat and other products to list their country of origin.
So for example if you have shrimp coming in from China, sitting pretty in your local A&P, you’ll know about it. Many people out there don’t realize that some of the food they buy travels half way across the world before it ends up in their belly. Why should they, when many things aren’t labeled? Why does food have to travel anyway? Well, so we can have things out of season and produce food items cheaply. But is it really worth it?
The labeling requirement applies to certain cuts of beef, lamb, pork, as well as to peanuts, fruits and vegetables, but sadly, processed foods were exempt. I’ve never been a fan of processed foods, isn’t it just better to melt some grated cheese on pasta versus stirring in a mystery powder though it might cost an extra dollar? It takes the same amount of time right? Also, restaurants and other food service establishments were exempted. Could you trust that your local food establishments are using fresh, local products?
While congress was concerned about the safety of the nation’s food supply, some leaders still feel that labels with additional info will just confuse consumers because most people do not read labels even for nutritional information. Perhaps the labels look daunting? I know, I was confused the first time I start looking at labels as a teenager, but here is an easy guide.
Sadly, so much about the food industry, especially in meat production, pre-packed processed goods, and fast food has to do with politics and money. What about the real purpose of food, namely health, nourishment, and quality, essential for the people who consume it?
That’s why it’s more important than ever to visit your local farmer’s markets and support small artisanal producers if it’s in your budget. And folks, reading food labels is easy, it just takes a little know-how and some quick math that you can do in your head! Just think, while improving your math skills, you’ll also be improving your waistline.