September 30, 2008

Where Did That Burger Come From?

Monday afternoon.

Man and wife in kitchen. Man slapping some ground beef into patties.

“Honey?”

“Yes, dear.”

“Where did that beef come from?”

Jabs hand into plastic bag littered with tomato and lettuce bits. Pulls out black styrofoam with crinkled plastic wrap attached.

“Huh. It doesn’t say.”

This afternoon.

Wife and husband in kitchen. Wife, just done finely dicing some ginger, moves to put some chicken thighs into a hot pan.

“Honey?”

“Yes, dear.”

“Where did that chicken come from?”

Jabs hand into plastic bag littered with cilantro stems, coconut milk can top. Pulls out white styrofoam with crinkled plastic wrap attached.

Canada.”

“It’s aboot time.”

Country of origin labeling on many, but by no means all, food is here. It has some glitches, however.

That’s because the regulations exclude a variety of foods that fall under the labeling requirement but are considered to be processed, including roasted peanuts, breaded chicken and bacon. The exemption for processed food also means that certain foods that are mixed together don’t have to be labeled, such as a bag of lettuce that includes both Romaine and iceberg, or a package of frozen peas and carrots.

Consumer and food safety advocates say they are generally happy with the rules, and relieved that the regulations are finally going into effect at all after so many delays. Still, they expect the guidelines will be puzzling to some consumers.

Frozen peas are a “processed food”? Technically, I guess they aren’t fresh out of the ground, so freezing and bagging required some sort of, well, process. But I don’t think frozen peas are what most people think of when they think of processed food.

It seems like where a food comes from should be a pretty straightforward question, eh? Me thinks me smells a regulatory nightmare.

The nearly final rules are now scheduled to go into effect on Sept. 30, and retailers will then have six months to make sure they understand the regulations correctly and come into compliance. The next step will be for the government to come out with a final set of rules, incorporating separate seafood and shellfish regulations, but there is no date set yet for that to happen.

Me thinks me also smells the wretched scent of industry lobbyists.

That’s one of the great things about this time of year. Much of the food we’ve been eating comes from Pennsylvania.

From within 60 miles of our house.

Often within 10 miles of our house.

Very often from our yard.

Maybe I should make my own label:

“Poblano pepper from garden 10 yards from back patio.”

1 comment:

Troy said...

Cool!!