Ensuring A Product Is Really British
Food labelling is the main way a consumer has to check what the food item they are buying is made of and its country of origin.
Examine the food item's packaging: there should always be a best before date, probably coupled with a display until date (which will be a day or 2 before the best before date); a list of ingredients; a country of origination and the grower or suppliers address. If any of this information is missing or not available, notify the shop manager.
By law, these pieces of information need to be available, and it is within the consumer's statutory rights to see them and make the choice of purchase based upon them. Much has been made of food labelling in the media recently, with an increased interest in food additives and preservatives, and a move to eat both healthier and organically (without all the chemicals that are added to food and the soil), checking the label is the main way of seeing what the food item in your hand is composed, and what will be in your body if you choose to eat it.
What To Look For: Ingredients and AdditivesAlways check that the main ingredient on the label is actually the food item! This may seem odd, but with some food, the manufacturers bulk it out with 'extra' ingredients, including water, that are more of the products sum total that the essence of the food itself. This is especially true with some meat products, including porkpies, sausages etc - mainly processed meats.
Additives are everywhere these days: as 'e' numbers, flavourings, and colourings; even as enhanced vitamins and minerals in bottled water, and soft drinks like coca cola. It is important for the individual consumer to research the issues around food additives and look at the facts available.
There is evidence to indicate that some additives are harmful in themselves, and that continued exposure to food additives through eating many different foods with them in, can produce severe health issues. If in doubt, don't buy food products with too many additives.
It is much easier these days to source unadulterated food and vegetables - start by finding your nearest health food store. Most supermarkets now also have an organic section (and a clearly labelled 'British foods' section) with meat and fish and fruit and vegetables, and often have a health food aisle also.
Where Is It From: Checking the OriginAll food products must now display on it, on its packaging, or nearby, its country of origin. Sometimes an item, like a bag of mixed nuts and raisins for instance, may be from several countries - this must still be displayed, and usually reads something like: " sourced from several countries, mixed or processed in the UK."
Apples and other fruits, and some vegetables, now have a small sticker on each individual item, showing either a national flag or giving a country name as country of origin.
To be sure a product really is British, look for the Red Tractor logo, which is a guarantee that the food is indeed British in origin. This scheme covers meats, such as beef, chicken, pork and lamb. It also covers salad, flour, fruit, vegetables and dairy products.
Food stores often proudly display 'British Produce' or have a 'Buy British' section. It is often worthwhile to know that the meat in your shopping trolley was raised in the Scottish borders, or that the cauliflower that will accompany it for Sunday lunch was organically grown in the East Anglian fenlands.
This traceability of food, where the item you buy can be sourced right back to it's grower, through the supplier and distributor, gives the food industry accountability, and increases the confidence to the consumer.
Buying British produce importantly develops and deepens a sense of pride in our own national food chain and markets - from the supplier, be it a small-scale farmer, or bigger agricultural operator, right through to your local store. It enhances the relationship between grower and consumer, cuts down on the necessity of food miles by reducing the imports from overseas and the environment-harming carbon created by that journey, and most importantly, tastes really good !