Monday, May 28, 2007

No China Diet: Reading Labels on Food

Katrina asks in comments if food labels show where food comes from.

Probably not.

There is no comprehensive law in the United States that requires this, and even the laws that do require it (origin of fish, for example, is required) are not really followed. This does make shopping tricky and the No China Diet difficult.

One of the reasons I think that there is so much rancor around the concept of ethical eating (and that's ethical with a small "e") is that eating is one of those fundamental needs (the foundation of Maslow's hierarchy of needs). You act as if you are taking away food options from folks and telling them how to eat, and you might as well be taking away air. People freak out. So I'm not taking away your food. I'll tell you what I eat and why. But I'm not taking away your food. Put the club down. I'm not a threat to your food supply. China is, in my humble opinion, but I'm not.

And let's be honest. Making choices about food is important and it's difficult. I don't think we give ourselves enough credit. If you are making thoughtful choices about food, regardless of whether or not you're buying organic chicken or domestic conventional spinach, you are doing a good thing. You're thinking. Thinking is good. And action is good too.

I found this great quote from Marion Nestle of Food Politics, which nicely complements what I wrote about voting with your wallet:

If people are inspired to make a change, what should they do?

You vote with your fork. Every time you buy a food, you are making a decision about the kind of world you want to live in. If you like the status quo, you buy the cheapest food available. If you want to make a difference in protecting the environment, you buy organic. If you care about the way animals are raised or farm laborers are treated, you buy foods that are produced in better — and more expensive — ways.

Beyond individual food choices, everything else is politics. You join organizations working on the kinds of issues you care about. You write letters; you lobby organizations. I know that sounds trite, but that's in fact how the system works. I tell people who care about food issues to speak out. Exercise their political rights. And enjoy dinner.

Read the whole interview here at Food Politics. And then read Scott Wells on The Healthy, Sustainable Diet, about what he eats (points awarded for use of "bejeweled") and Elizabeth on Death by Veganism, who gives lots of links to healthy ways to eat less animal products (points awarded for annoyance at the New York Times).