Photo: Digital Vision/Noel Hendrickson/Thinkstock
Patty Lovera, assistant director of the nonprofit organization Food & Water Watch has reviewed Lynn Okura's trip to the grocery store. She offers her critique along with tips on how to shop locally, ethically and organically.
Q: What are some of the things Lynn did right during her shopping trip?
A: The organic produce and the organic meats were great decisions. Having some goals for the shopping trip is really helpful. Grocery stores are tough places to make decisions because you are being bombarded with so much marketing information that it gets overwhelming. Lynn handled the pricing issues well and proved that it is possible to make room in your existing budget for the better quality food.
Q: What are some things did she did wrong (be brutal)—and what would you recommend instead?
A: Thinking about what produce is in season is important because if you are buying fresh produce that is out of season, it means it came from somewhere far away. And that means that it took a lot of energy to get it to you, it isn't as fresh as it could be because it took time to get to you, and it might be from another country where standards for growing produce are not as strong as the standards in America. And very little (less than 1 percent) of imported food is inspected at the border.
Q: With processed foods everywhere you turn, it's difficult to find a package that doesn't contain an ingredient your grandmother wouldn't recognize. What are some "unrecognizable" ingredients that should definitely be avoided?
A: One ingredient that should be avoided is milk protein concentrates (MPCs). This ingredient is mostly imported and is used to replace milk from domestic farmers in processed food supplies. It is created by putting milk through a filtration process that removes the all liquid and the minerals that are good for nutrition. Basically, MPCs are what is leftover when the most valuable components of milk are taken out. What is left is a dry substance with no nutritional value that is used as an additive in products like processed cheese, energy bars, crackers, etc. In addition to having no nutritional value, MPCs are largely imported and not FDA regulated. They drive down the price of domestically produced milk and put American dairy farmers out of business. And fewer domestic dairy farmers means less choices for consumers. Check out the Food & Water Watch Web page for more information on MPCs and what you can do to avoid them.
Another thing to think about in processed foods is sodium. There is a lot of hidden salt in certain processed foods, so make sure to check the packaging labels.