Doug Powell, a Kansas State University food safety professor and author of one of my must-read e-newsletters, has a term for that. He issues “nose-stretcher alerts” when people toy with the truth or manipulate statistics.
Let me borrow from Powell and issue a couple of nose-stretcher alerts of my own.
Going loco … or is it local?
Please tell me what “locally grown” means. It seems every retailer has a different definition, and most don’t spell it out.
I was in a major northern California chain in early June that had signage promoting “locally grown grapes.” I must have uttered something under my breath questioning the local designation, because a produce department employee came over and acknowledged that they don’t grow table grapes in Modesto, Calif., where I live.
I pointed out that at that moment, the closest district shipping was Arvin, which was about 225 miles south. He said he was just following company policy.
Even a further stretch were the avocados I saw in a Modesto Walmart in September tagged as “locally grown” and carrying a Mission Produce decal. My hunch is they were probably grown somewhere around Oxnard, Calif., about 320 miles from Modesto.
Being a tropical crop, they’d never survive a Central Valley winter with the occasional 25-degree freezes.
I’m sure many shoppers probably don’t have the foggiest idea where table grapes and avocados are grown.
Eventually, the locally grown moniker will be so used and abused that it will lose much of its cache and become just another hollow marketing term, like “new and improved.”
I’m not dead set against the term local. Just put it in perspective. A good example was a September 2011 tomato display in the Fort Collins, Colo., Whole Foods: “Honeyacre tomatoes, Wiggins, Colo., 70 miles away.”
No confusion there.
This summer while shopping in a Modesto’s Raley’s supermarket, the produce manager was excited about a new fruit the store would have on ad the following week, a plumogranate. I asked if it was a cross between a plum and pomegranate. He said he thought so but didn’t know much more about it.
How could breeders cross a member of the prunus family with one from the punicaceae family? The stone fruit and pomegranate families are not very closely related, and my armchair biology told me it probably couldn’t be done using conventional breeding techniques.
So I waited until the plumogranate came on ad and visited Raley’s again, wanting to see what I imagined was a plum with lots of tiny arils, or seed casings, inside.
It turns out the plumogranate is a plumcot, or plum-apricot cross, that is touted as having the antioxidants of a pomegranate.
The Food and Drug Administration has cracked down on fish fraud — such as calling sablefish black cod, since it’s not a member of the codfish family, or calling rockfish Pacific snapper, since it’s not snapper.
Maybe the FDA needs to crack down on fruit fraud, too.
What's your take? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.