A growing market of food shoppers are becoming sensitive to how their food is made.
Some people talk of how buying some foods undermines the world’s rain forests or coastlines. Others campaign to save the American family farm or improve conditions for foreign laborers. Some call for the American system of big farms and companies to get bigger and deliver ever cheaper food.
Some only shop organic or support only locally grown produce. But on the other hand, international trade has allowed us to have cherries and pineapples in the Midwest in the winter. Although wild salmon may taste better and be healthier due to the lack of contaminants and added antibiotics, open fishing unfortunately can meet only half the global demand.
The global market gives Americans a variety of food once unimagined. But those who advocate buying locally say such imports reduce the incentive of U.S. farmers to grow produce and encourage them to turn to more subsidized commodity grains.
But buying from foreign countries is not always the simplest of solutions either. Buy chocolate and you risk supporting Ivory Coast plantations notorious for using child slave labor to grow and harvest cocoa. Drink java, and unless it’s shade-grown, you could be accused of encouraging destruction of South American rain forests to make room for your coffee beans.
In 1997, an outbreak of potentially fatal hepatitis A from frozen strawberries shipped from Mexico sickened 270 persons in five states, 130 Michigan schoolchildren among them. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says imported food is three times more likely than U.S.-grown food to be contaminated with illegal pesticide residues.
The Environmental Working Group found those chemicals on 18.4 percent of strawberries, 15.6 percent of head lettuce and 12.3 percent of carrots imported from Mexico. Whether that poses a health risk is controversial.