Over recent years, we have slowly been educated about reading labels on food – especially packaged and processed foods – so that we know what the ingredients are. This is very important when it comes to knowing how much sugar or sodium the product contains or whether it is artificially flavored, sweetened, colored or preserved. We are becoming more fussy, and with good reason, about organic free range poultry, pork and eggs; about grass fed beef and dairy products; and whether our fruit and veggies have been organically raised without the use of pesticides and other toxic chemicals.
The right to know what is in our food
It is just a pity that we have not yet reached the stage where we are being told through labeling whether there are GMOs in our food. But that day will still come – it is just taking a bit longer than most people hoped.
Now there is something new to look out for and that is about not only reading the labels but about turning over the box or the package to find out what the bar code says so that you know from which country the food or product originated.
Yes, perhaps you can now have the answer to that question too
In spite of American foods and products not having a wonderful record themselves, many people in the USA are concerned about imports from other countries, particularly China. Rumors abound such as the Chinese using their own raw sewage to water and fertilize millions of hectares of crops for export; or the fear of nuclear fall out from Japan's Fukushima disaster following the devastating earthquake in 2011. Whatever the latest scare might be, we want to know about it.
Thanks to an increasingly globalized food supply, the average American could be eating some 260 pounds of imported food per year or approximately 13% of their diet. While food imports regulated by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration), have increased from 4 million shipments at the beginning of this century to roughly 10 million shipments by 2006 and rising, they cannot keep up and are only able to inspect less than 1% of imported food. At least one quarter of all the USA supply of fresh and frozen fruit is imported and more than 80% of their seafood. So the country of origin becomes ever more important to know.
If you are concerned too, there is information to help you determine the country of origin of what you are buying. You can look for the label MADE IN CHINA or anywhere else for that matter but increasingly countries like China are not adding such labels.
All you have to do is to take note of the first 3 digits on the bar code
For example...00 - 09 ... MADE IN USA and CANADA
30 - 37 ... MADE IN FRANCE
40 - 44 ... MADE IN GERMANY
49 … MADE IN JAPAN
50 … MADE IN UK
471 ... MADE IN TAIWAN
690, 691, 692 … MADE IN CHINA
890 ... MADE IN INDIA
I thought it was all simple and straightforward but it seems that it is not
Although those numbers are allocated to those countries, it is not strictly true. The codes actually indicate the country or economic region where a particular bar code was assigned but not necessarily the country where the product identified by that code originated.
So are we back to square one?
You can take it all with a pinch of salt but at the very least, bar codes can certainly give an indication of where your product is from even though it cannot be guaranteed.
The important thing is to be a conscientious consumer so that you are aware of what you are buying. And even better is to buy fresh, organic and local so that you are supporting your home economy and eating healthily.
Fresh, organic and local won't even need a bar code!