Food – 2

Provenance

A lot of people will not have heard of the above word.  It basically means the item concerned has clear evidence that it is what it says its is.  For example, buyers of paintings will want to know if they are the genuine article, so they look for evidence through catalogues, letters, the painter’s style.  We can now even do a forensic examination to check that the paint that was used was actually available at the time of picture’s creation.

Taking this to the selling of food, as mentioned in a previous post, it is possible to trace from creation to shop.  But with many food products that contain a number of ingredients, that can be difficult.  Take for example, sauces used in pasta dishes – there is tomatoes, spices, onions, and additives – all requiring sourcing.  But, even if we can source all products, we also need to take into account if the product is grown organically and in a sustainable manner and takes into account the needs of the locals, the animals’ welfare is excellent (including being fed natural feed), whether the workers’ conditions (especially overseas) are ethical (in terms of pay and health and safety), the product is carried from source to shop environmentally (eg using non CO2 fuel obtained responsibly) and it is sold in containers and coverings which are recyclable.

All this information would take up too much space on a product, so there needs to be a different solution to also include health benefits/issues around intake of fat, sugar and salt as well as generally how much one should take each day, week or month.  Therefore, what I would suggest is food suppliers provide a hand held scanner to use on a barcode which is linked to a continually update website identifying all the sources of the ingredients used, transportation methods used and effects on one’s health, along with the names of all the businesses used.  This would help the shopper buy responsibly and encourage the supermarket or whatever to do the same.

One thing that would make things easier to source is local produce being bought instead of something that has to travel miles to get to the consumer.

One interesting development is https://www.provenance.org/ which has made a start in doing just what I have suggested but it does not have every aspect, but it is a beginning.  I do hope all my readers will start thinking about the issue so that all the growers and manufacturers benefit as well as planet earth.  It could also be linked to finding ways of reducing food waste.

So, for further reading, have a look at the following websites and articles.

https://noharm-uscanada.org/sites/default/files/documents-files/892/Purchasing_Non-GMO_Food.pdf

https://corporate.marksandspencer.com/plan-a/food-and-household/product-standards/raw-materials-commodities-and-ingredients

https://www.foodmanufacture.co.uk/Article/2012/09/11/Food-manufacturers-warned-about-global-sourcing

http://www.greenhotelier.org/know-how-guides/sourcing-sustainable-food-in-hotels/

http://www.communityfoods.co.uk/affiliates.htm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/0/26139350

https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Industries/Consumer%20Packaged%20Goods/Our%20Insights/Recipe%20for%20success%20for%20sourcing%20in%20the%20food%20industry/Recipe-for-success-for-sourcing-in-the-food-industry.ashx

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Food – 1

Food – most people love it, especially me!

But, there is much confusion surrounding it.

Health

There does not seem to be any agreement as to what foods we should eat and how much we should consume.  Take alcohol for example.  There is conflicting advice a to whether everyone should take some as it is supposed to be good for our system, what drinks we should and should not take, whether we can have a drink every day and how much we should take.  Then, there are disagreements as to how much carbon we should have in our diet or what fruit we should eat.  We are often told fresh fruit is good for us, but a good number are high in sugar content, which if too much is taken, leads to various health issues!  Eat in moderation, I say!

Ethics

With the many food scandals, we are beginning to want to know what is in our food and where it comes from.  Because many products have so many ingredients, it is difficult to publish their sources.  Also, even with accreditation schemes for which there are a number, all of which have different criteria and so there is no standard.  It does not help that consumers rely so much on non-fresh food and therefore many products are not 100% of a certain product, especially in terms of things like meat.  Also we demand so much choice, that we really do not know what to choose.

Also, because of our demand for all-year round products, suppliers source them from all over the world, which leads to problems of an increase in transport carbon dioxide emissions and other costs.  This demand also takes away the demand for local produce, though that is beginning to change with the desire to know where our food comes from.

Technology is beginning to catch up and it will soon be possible for every product to be scanned and one can see where precisely in the world each product is sourced from, where it is made and other information to help consumers make informed decisions. (eg https://www.provenance.org/ )

Welfare

It is quite surprising that many farms still do not believe in animal welfare in terms of using natural feed products, giving them plenty of room to move around and not to mix breeds, all of which reduce flavour and do not do the animals any good in the long term (as it often leads to genetic problems).  Then there is the issue of genetically-modified plants.  For a discussion on this topic, see https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3558185/.

Pricing

One of the big contentions is the monopoly supermarkets have on the market.  Take the diary industry for example; the price that supermarkets pay farmers does not allow them to make any profits, and so many go out business and that means milk has to be imported.  Also, supermarkets do not develop long-term relationships with suppliers, so they cannot plan or even innovate.  We, the public need to persuade the supermarkets to reduce their margins so that there is more consistency in pricing.  It is really a big con with all the special offers and reduction in product sizes.

Waste

With a growing population, we need to look at how much we eat and how much we throw away.  This applies to consumers, supermarkets and to such places as restaurants.  So much ends up in landfill, when most of it could be recycled in one form or another.  It does not help that the labelling system is confusing and not always right.

We also need to look at how we can increase food production in areas of low incomes and where refugees live.  Part of this problem is how we deal with climate change.  For example, with the increase in the demand for meat, this increases the amount of methane gas from cows which in turn plays havoc with the climate.  So, do we become vegetarians, like Adam and Eve were, or do we find natural solutions to capture the methane and use it for energy supplies?

Conclusion

I think that we need to have a consultation, bringing together producers, supermarkets, suppliers, consumers, and ethical groups to agree on pricing policies, welfare standards, the naturalness of products, recycling and waste, issues surrounding the environment, sourcing issues, health issues, etc.

Any comments?