Copy

The Fresh Food Fallacy
 
When is fresh bread, fresh bread? When are farm fresh eggs, farm fresh? Is frozen food fresh? And then what about bottled or canned produce?  When can fruit and veg be considered fresh? Is raw milk more fresh than pasteurised milk?
 
The word “fresh” implies that it is better for you. So in a competitive world, its no great surprise to see the word being bandied around when often what it refers to is far from fresh. Of the same parlance and implied benefit is the word “natural“ and often the two words will be put together.
 
We want fresh!
 
According to the leading US business magazine Fortune, “More and more shoppers are opting for fresh and organic, and that is costing major packaged-food companies some serious market share.” Big business is seeing consumers vote with their wallets in favour of fresh food and it is turning the market upside down. 
Denise Morrison the CEO of Campbell’s Soup Co. acknowledges, “we understand that increasing numbers of consumers are seeking, authentic, genuine, food experiences and we know they are sceptical of the ability of large, long established food companies to deliver them.”
 
Industry research shows consumers see frozen foods as being the least desirable in terms of freshness, with the most desirable being freshly harvested fruit and vegetables.
 
Packaged foods are being shunned in preference for fresh, and companies are starting to eliminate synthetic colours and artificial preservatives from their packaged foods.
 
Read the list of ingredients on a mass market loaf of bread and see if it makes you salivate. You might get excited if you have a chemistry degree, but otherwise you are left wondering whether all those additives are actually harmful.
 
Imported food scandals
 
Recent food scandals have tarnished the reputation of imported food. 
Remember the 2008 case of adulterated milk formula in China where there were 300,000 victims, 54,000 hospital admissions and 6 deaths? 
Earlier this year an outbreak of Hepatitis A was attributed to frozen berries imported from China.
 
Almost 9,000 imported foods were found to be contaminated or containing prohibited or excess additives or antibiotics from scores of countries over the past five years.
 
Believe it or not, food imported into Australia is not required to undergo the same level of chemical testing as domestic produce. While Aussie farmers are subjected to extensive tests for up to 150 pesticides and veterinary chemicals, foreign produce is only checked for 49.
 
Is it really ‘fresh’?
 
In the pursuit of health and wellbeing, consumers are increasingly questioning what’s on, in, and surrounding their food as well as the age/freshness of the food itself.
 
In a September 2014 report by Choice, they reported: “It’s a fair-enough expectation that if you are buying “fresh produce” it shouldn’t have been frozen and preserved - that it shouldn’t have been stored for extended periods of time.”
 
Choice correctly states that a huge amount of effort has been put into extending the shelf life of all manner of products.  This can involve benign methods such as reduced oxygen environments, or more serious methods like fumigating imported fruit and vegetables with methyl bromide.
 
“Fresh” meat could have been slaughtered up to 140 days ago and placed in cryopacks.
 
The nutritional value of many fruit and vegetables declines rapidly after picking.  For example English Spinach retains only 53% of its folate and 54% of its carotene after 8 days.
 
The supply chains for fruit and veg in Australia mean the produce is picked “green mature” – rarely ripe!  So a banana can be a fortnight old, while apples and pumpkins can be up to a year old. A Pink Lady apple eaten in February is a 10-month-old apple, while a Granny Smith eaten in March is nearly a year old.

 
Demand taste and freshness over looks
 
Do you really know what freshly picked, ripe food tastes like? 
Only people who have grown up on farms or have their own trees know what real stone fruit should taste like.
Only those who grow their own tomatoes know the salty, sweet rich tastes of different heirloom varieties.
Fruit and veggies from the supermarket lack that flavour and nutritional density, simply because they are bred to withstand transport and storage. 
In addition, consumers are still enamoured with large, unblemished, perfect looking fruit and veggies, and this is still driving the market. 
 
For growers, yield is normally top of the priority list, followed by disease resistance, texture and shape.
For consumers, looks and convenience are still important: truss tomatoes, seedless watermelons, washed potatoes and unblemished fruit, all perfectly displayed under special lighting.
 
The good news is that taste and freshness are coming back in fashion with consumers and the supermarkets and growers are listening.
 
So how to make sure the food is fresh?
 
First and foremost, be aware of where your produce is grown and avoid imported ‘fresh’ produce, for all the reasons mentioned above. It certainly can’t be as fresh as local produce and will almost certainly be fumigated with methyl bromide.
 
Secondly, eat what is in season – forget about tomatoes in winter.
 
Choose fruit that is ripe or you know will ripen within your consumption period.
 
You’re more likely to get fresh when you buy from your local butcher or fruit and veg, rather than a supermarket.
 
Support local growers by shopping at farmers markets and be sure you are dealing with the grower.  Ask them questions about how they grow food.  Local food is sure to be fresher.
Grow your own
 
The very best option of course is to grow your own with fruit trees in an orchard and veggies in your veggie garden, if you have the space. The ability to pick it and eat it straight from the garden is a “fresh” you cannot beat – a superior choice over all else.   Swap excesses with your friends and neighbours - this builds support and community.
If you don’t have garden space, try growing some small fruit trees and veggies in pots, up walls, in kitchens, and any space you can find.
 
Shop wisely from now on and rediscover the taste experience of REALLY fresh food.
 
 Resources
 

We commend Coles and Woolworths for displaying publicly where their produce comes from. 


Coles Fresh Food viewer - Click here
Woolworths Fresh Food finder  - Click here
Copyright © 2019 Vital Veggies*, All rights reserved.