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A Passionate Voice

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Even at an early age, Cheryl Day was a passionate and practical advocate for agriculture. Check out her viewpoint on current agricultural topics.

If Food Labels could Talk

Sep 23, 2011

The world seems to be moving at a fast pace and this farm family is definitely in the middle of the rat race. As a mom, I am always struggling with balancing an active household and providing healthy food choices.

Unlike my forefathers, our family is not self-sustaining. We do not grow everything on this farm that I serve on the table. In fact-at no shock to you- bananas do not grow in Illinois. So, like every person I find myself roaming the grocery store aisles trying to select the right food within our budget for my family.

By nature, I tend to be a big people observer and I do take note as people give me strange looks when I stop to read a label. Especially, in the produce aisle I stop and read the label because I want to know who grew my fruit and veggies. I find it a great score of the day if I can get Illinois Produce in a mainstream grocery store.

However, I too get overwhelmed by Food Labels. In this “information in instant” world, it should not be a torture to shop for my food. In addition, it should not be the next big marketing scheme to start using buzz words in competing for my food dollars: Organic, Natural, No Hormones, etc.

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The discussion of food labels is not a new hot topic but an ongoing discussion about what information should really be on the food label.

On Thursday, a nationwide discussion about Food was hosted in Town Hall meetings in Indiana, Washington D.C., California, and New York. Consumers, Farmers, and Ranchers were invited to participate in “Food Dialogues” through Live Webcast, Twitter, and Facebook.   

Food labels was one item of discussion that the panel in New York tackled with moderator, Chef John Besh.

I could relate with panelist, Sarah Murray - the author of Moveable Feasts and Panelist - as she shows the audience a three year-old Food Label from the United Kingdom.

This UK Food Label quickly demonstrated to her “How difficult the labeling & transparency issue is”

Murray further explains this label in extremely small print contained a symbol with an airplane indicating the product had traveled from Kenya.   For those concerned about Carbon Emissions then the airiplane was a quick symbol alerting the miles the product had traveled. This simple airplane sticker ruffled the feathers because the Kenyan farmers’ livelihood depended on the export of their green beans to the UK. As a result, a picture of women farmer-Elizabeth- and her story was added to the top of the label. All these extra information was addition to the other normal information present on labels. 

So this begs the question how much information do you really want on your Food Label? As Murray joked you “Can’t go to the supermarket with a magnified glass” or Biochemistry Textbook.

 

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“People shouldn't have to have a PhD in biochemistry to buy healthy food" – added Dr. Silver, Director of the Office of Science and Policy for New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

According to panelist Dr. Silver, in survey of New Yorkers, 80 percent likes labels but only 15 percent use them.

Everyone should have access to nutritional food at a price that is less than the cost of junk food. Labels can contain all the information requested by a consumer but if they cannot afford that item then it will remain on the shelf.

Many times at the grocery store I would wish for an "easy button"  that are present at many tourist attractions. At the press of the button, all information about that food product would be revealed.

So, I ask if Your Food label could talk then what information would you want to hear?

 

  • Farmer story

  • Nutrition Item

  • Words that do not require a PhD

  • Place of Origin (where the food item was actual grown-Illinois, California, Mexico, Kenya)? Grow in ___________ but Processed at _____________?

  • The Use of Labels-Organic, Natural, No Hormone-with USDA inspection

  •  Labels of Agriculture Practices: Free Range, Grass Fed, Grain Fed

 

I invite you to leave a comment on your ideal Food Label - Let's Start a Food Dialogue.

 

 

Reference

Food Dialogues

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