Saturday, 16 February 2013

food mislabeling

Food mislabeling is an issue that's been in the news a lot recently. This post isn't about horse meat though. It's about something less important but it does say a lot about the attitude of retailers. Yesterday I went to Borough Market in London. I wanted to see what it looks like now all the building work has been completed. I also wanted to buy a few things, like blood oranges.

Blood oranges come from southern Italy and Spain and are available at some markets now. They have a different colour and taste from the usual oranges. There are different cultivars, the Moro being the best flavoured. There are several places in Borough Market where blood oranges are sold. The first one I came to didn't label the blood oranges on display with the name of the cultivar. I picked up two and asked the assistant at the till if she knew what the variety is. She didn't know.

The next place I went to I could see that the name on the box was Moro. This was the tiny lettering that the grower puts on the box that the fruit are transported in. Again, there was nothing that the seller put on his label to say what cultivar it is.

The third place I went to was the biggest of the fruit and vegetable sellers. It is called Turnips. There were a number of boxes of blood oranges, and they had placed on top of them a laminated information sheet. This sheet was all about the Moro cultivar. So I assumed they were all Moro. Until I looked on the box and it said Tarocco. So what are they, Moro or Tarocco? I think what they do is to put the same information sheet on their blood oranges, irrespective of what cultivar they are.

Bear in mind that what they say about Borough Market and similar places is that if you're not sure then you can ask the vendor and they will tell you all about the produce that they are selling. All the people working there were busy, but if I had asked I would probably have got the same response as at the first place.

It's not important if someone like me can't get my Moro blood oranges. In fact, I can get them, elsewhere. What is important is that even at somewhere like Borough Market they can't even be bothered to get their labeling right. I can't work out if they are stupid or if they think we are stupid. Another thing I don't like is when I ask for something, they tell me it's out of season, even when I know it is available elsewhere.

I've been getting my Moro blood oranges at 4 for £1 from Berwick Street market in Soho. So they're not some kind of expensive item that ordinary people can't afford.

I've got 3 more examples of casual labeling, all from Sainsbury's. A couple of years ago I bought a cheap camellia plant. It was labeled as the variety Debbie, a variety that I am familiar with and I like the form of it's flowers. It's in flower now, for the first time, but it's definitely not Debbie. It was quite cheap to buy, and if they had said that it could be any variety, or if they said it was had pink flowers, I might still have bought it. But I don't like being told that it is one thing and then finding it is something else.

I was in the bakery section of Sainsbury's recently and there were 4 round loaves in a basket. They all looked exactly the same, they all had the same packaging, but 2 were labeled 'sourdough' and 2 were labeled with a fancy French name that I didn't recognise. I think that they were just all the same.

In some of the bigger Sainsbury's they have a café. I like their filter coffee. But if I ask for filter coffee, one of 3 things happens. They either pour some coffee out of a vacuum flask. This seems to taste the best. Or they have a machine with a tap. Or they use a similar method as when they're making latte or cappuccino. I think this is technically called an Americano. I don't mind so much but I would like to know what I'm getting.
blood oranges

No comments:

Post a Comment