Waking up to where our food comes from

15 Feb 2013 11:05


New mum and Fairtrade Foundation Fundraising Manager Amy Ross says the latest food scandal should be a wake up call for all of us to care where our food comes from.

As a mum I think more now about the content of my food than I ever did growing up, or at any point in my adult life. Ten years ago I when I was at university I would happily have picked up a ready-meal lasagne or bolognese, putting food content and provenance pretty low down on my list of priorities. But now that I have a little mouth to feed I suddenly find myself obsessing over the salt, fat and sugar contents of all kinds of foods. And, crucially, where it came from. 

I want to know that the food I am putting on my daughter’s plate is healthy, has been made to high standards and contains what it says on the packet. Seeing as I can’t always make the food myself, I rely on companies which I trust to do that for me. 

The horsemeat scandal has highlighted just how misplaced that trust can be. Global food supply chains are intricate and opaque – you just have to listen to the string of countries that Findus meat passed through on its journey to our supermarket shelves to realise that we really have no way of telling where our food came from, who made it and to what standards. 

Lack of transparency and accountability in our food supply chains is preventing even the biggest and most powerful companies from guaranteeing that what we are eating is what we think we are. Eating vast quantities of meat at the expense of the environment is one of the most morally questionable aspects of our global consumption habits. But it isn’t the only one. 

Supermarket price wars are squeezing the margins of farmers around the world and forcing people to sell the product of a hard days’ work at well below the cost of sustainable production. Global commodity markets distort the price of produce with little or no consideration of the effect on the people at the start of the supply chain. If we are going to be morally indignant about the ‘who, where and what’ of our food we need to apply it across the board.  

We should be buying local and Fairtrade products wherever and whenever we can, holding companies to account for the supply chains they are responsible for, and making sure that fairness, trust, transparency and accountability are at the heart of what we put on our families’ tables.

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