Monday, August 6, 2007

The Economics of our Food.


With so many recalls in the news this last year I have been curious about how much food is successfully banned from import into the United States. Through the Food and Drug Administration website it didn't take me long to find out.

It was shocking.

A years worth of refusals is listed on their site and you can find it here:

http://www.fda.gov/ora/oasis/ora_ref_prod.html

It isn't just China, although they do constitute a great many of them, and it isn't just companies that you have never heard of before, quite a few of those found on the list are common brands and some are premium brands. What is apparent is that in our global economy, with regular international trade, the opportunities to be exposed to dangers in our food supply is of deeper concern than some rogue businessman in China putting plasticized pesticide particulate fillers in dog food.

A company's inclusion on the FDA OASIS list doesn't mean they did something terrible, sometimes it just means that they didn't put nutritional labels on the package, or incomplete labels, or no English. Other times it could be undeclared colors or nuts or other allergens that they wouldn't normally have to declare in their own country.

But, too often it is because the food is Filthy or has Salmonella or is Poisonous or contains Pesticides (or worse, or all of the above plus some). And it isn't just the canned jams or fish, nor is it just the wet foods--there is a recall of every type of food, every staple...and these are the ones that were caught through the net of a Food Inspector whose entire field is understaffed, under qualified and financially maintained through the very industry that it is meant to regulate.

It is a shame.

Free global commerce seemed like a good idea once, and I was a great proponent of it, but I see so many negative ramifications from it that I think it is time for us consumers to consider reigning in our purchases from outside of our regional area as much as possible. While it isn't feasible to buy everything within your town, from people you know, it is feasible to buy a greater portion of your food locally, grow a small garden (or for some people a large one) and to let our local stores know that we would be willing to pay more in order to trust what we buy.

It seems likely that everyone in the U.S. is starting to figure out that the $10 shovel isn't worth buying since you'll have to buy two every year in order to get through your chores. People all over are starting to decide that it is better to bite the bullet and pay $50 once and have it last ten years or more. Because it took us so long to come to that realization, we now find that the $50 shovel is quite hard to come by and when we do find it it costs $80, due to lower volumes of sales and broader competition on the raw materials. The freedom of a global economy has actually succinctly limited our choice.

Now is the time to realize the same problem with our food. Lets all make the decision to buy from our local supply before we find that our stores no longer give us that option. Lets also take some time to put some of our own food on our plates so that we are not beholden to the food manufacturers and grocer store buyers whims. Who's with me?

1 comment:

Douglas Gibson said...

Good article! That old adage "You get what you pay for" has never been more true. Especially now when you are shopping for food. In the past almost all food sold in America was grown or produced in America, now it's a crap shoot. I read every label and still there is no guarantee that I can find out where it comes from. Buying locally is truly the only answer.