Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Traceability of food

Following up on yesterdays post this NY Times article talks about a new trend in the food community that is gaining traction: traceability. It is not just about what you eat, but even just as critical, what is the departure and destination of your food? Are you shopping at Whole foods, while better for you, might not be so good because of the miles travelled to bring fresh food. Are we committed to our local farmers and joining CSAs? While some regions have extremely large populations can we change the patterns of food production so they are closer to where we live?
The underlying idea, broadly called traceability, is in fashion in many food circles these days. Makers of bananas, chocolates and other foods are also using the Internet to create relationships between consumers and farmers, mimicking the once-close ties that were broken long ago by industrialized food manufacturing.

Traceability can be good for more than just soothing the culinary consciences of foodies. Congress is also studying the possibility of some kind of traceability measure as a way to minimize the impact of food scares like the recent peanut salmonella crisis.

The theory: if food producers know they’re being watched, they’ll be more careful. The Stone-Buhr flour company, a 100-year-old brand based in San Francisco, is giving the buy-local food movement its latest upgrade. Beginning this month, customers who buy its all-purpose whole wheat flour in some Wal-Mart, Safeway and other grocery chains can go to findthefarmer .com, enter the lot code printed on the side of the bag, and visit with the company’s farmers and even ask them questions.

Although the article focuses on the personal and safety of food, does this traceability not open up the door to see where the food we eat actually comes from? We can determine our shopping habits by safety, nutritional values, and miles traveled. Also, to take it step further we can look at energy produced to create the food we consume. This would lead to a broader understanding of our carbon footprint. Not just where we live, but what impact we are having with our consumption habits in our cities, regional, countries, and globally.

No comments: