Linda Hall: Where does food come from?

By Linda Hall

Do you know where your last meal came from? Australia, Canada, America? Who knows?

Unfortunately, we consumers don't have a clue because manufacturers of food don't have to tell us.

The debate over country-of-origin labelling has reared its head again. Personally, I think every producer of food should have to not only tell us where it originated from but also tell us in writing, big enough to read, what's in it.

It amazes me that it is mandatory to have country-of-origin labelling on shoes and clothes but not on food.

Apart from the mortgage or rent, food would, in most households, be the next-biggest weekly expense.

Without it we cannot survive. Gone are the days where most households had a garden and a man down the road who would sell you half a sheep for 20 bucks.

Today's sections are small and people's lives have changed dramatically.

Weekends, for many, are for leisure and not toiling away in the garden.

I actually do have a wonderful, productive garden and I would recommend anyone with a spare bit of dirt to plant some veges. You really don't know what you are missing.

Anyway, I digress. Most supermarkets voluntarily label fruit and vegetables' country of origin. NZ Beef and Lamb has also decided it will voluntarily label its products. Good for them. I know what I will be choosing.

We, as consumers, are constantly bombarded with information about food. This is good for you, this isn't. Oh no, wait a minute, that product that you've been told for years is good for you suddenly is bad for you.

It can be very confusing and I know that, for some, feeding their family every week is a battle. They will go for the cheapest product, no matter where it comes from. Who can blame them?

The price of food seems to creep up and up every time you step into a supermarket.

I also understand it would cost food producers to relabel their food and that cost would more than likely be passed onto the consumer.

However, I think New Zealand producers need to stop and think that, by relabelling their food, the majority of shoppers would pick them over other brands. I know I would. And please, while you're relabelling, would you mind making the ingredients list on packaging a tad bigger? Health experts tell us to read packaging to make sure we know what we are putting in our bodies. Well, I try but honestly, even people with 20/20 vision would have problems.

It's not easy to stop in a busy supermarket aisle, trying to decipher what's written on the packet, while you're also trying to remember what was on the list you left at home and making sure you have all the ingredients for the week's meals.

Speaking of cooking, I had the privilege of meeting a splendid group of ladies last week. I was invited to a Women's Institute Members & Officers Day in Taradale to give them some advice about writing their monthly reports, which are published in Hawke's Bay Today.

I was a bit nervous but they welcomed me and joked and laughed with me.

These women are the backbone of our communities. They raise money for all sorts of charities, they teach people to cook and they really are a special bunch of people. One lady has been a member since 1954. Just imagine how much time and energy she has put into helping others.

I asked them what appealed to them about Women's Institute. Their reply: Friendship, sharing knowledge, learning skills, passing on those skills and meeting loads of people.

They are trying to change their image to attract members and are working on dropping the word institute from their name. They say they go out and about more now, rather than just meeting in a hall.

I salute you, ladies. Keep up the good work.

FOOTNOTE: Fonterra, what is going on? Please sort out this milk powder business. Tell us what went wrong and what you are going to do to prevent it happening again.

Linda Hall is assistant editor at Hawke's Bay Today.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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