Not on the Label: What Really Goes into the Food on Your Plate
26 journalers for this copy...
A devastating expose of the state of the food production industry in Britain, Not On The Label will change the way we eat and the way we think about what we eat.
Looking at some of our most popular foods, the author sytematically exposes their production and marketing, showing how the food industry causes ill health, environmental damage, urban blight - and starves smallholders in Africa and Asia, and exploits illegal labourers in Britain.
The chapter titles are initially a bit misleading - "Beans" for example deals with the subject of food miles, the dependency of the whole supply chain on oil, and the link to climate change, all kicked off by considering Kenyan green beans. "Bananas" looks at the devastating buying power of supermarkets and how one store's price cuts force lower prices for all growers (this chapter had the most overlap with Shopped). However, as you're unlikely to pick chapters to read from a book like this, I came to see it as an interesting hook, making me wonder what on earth coffee and prawns had to do with each other, and reading on to find out.
The style is quite easy to read, and overall rather similar to Shopped, which makes it good for casual readers and those who want to find out more. Each chapter's notes and sources are expanded at the back of the book, there's a section devoted to things readers can do to help (which is very realistic in tone), and a really useful selection of addresses and web links (e.g. finding a food co-op in your area, listings of organic butchers, etc.).
This book is a real eye-opener, and should be read by everyone who's ever bought any food (so everyone, really!). Why more noise isn't being made by the general public about the issues, I don't know... maybe this book will raise their profile.
Anyway, we have no green grocer's locally so I have been buying fruit and veg from the supermarket. I will now be investigating an organic box scheme. I love the idea of getting somewhere like the village school to act as a drop off and collection point - wonder if I can get the school interested...
All my reviews are posted to Alex in Leeds.
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
Posting onto Kuju today, sorry for the delay.
As I'm originally from Australia, one thing I do appreciate in Australia is that they still have the concept of Summertime fruits (as far as I'm aware) and I hope we never lose that. The supermarkets may provide Strawberries all year round but the delights of mangoes, peaches, cherries and nectarines are only available in Summertime. I always look forward to my first mango of the year, my first bag of cherries (when they become cheap enough) and my daily fix of nectarines. That's something I'll miss and even tho I can buy Mango all year round in the UK, I probably won't purchase one during the Winter. You can't let mango drip down your arms when you're wearing a jumper! :P
The organic food box mentioned in the book sounds like a fantastic idea and I will definitely look into it. Also, I'm quite pleased about the mention of the lighthouse bakery. It is just down the road from me! So, I will be going there this weekend and enjoying some real bread and I'll be going on a search for the North Street Deli too.
I've been trying to get in contact with Battypuss who is next on the list but no reply! I'll try again otherwise I might send it on the the next person. Thanks ermintrude75!
This arrived a while ago, but got buried under a pile of papers. I haven't started it yet.
I'll keep an eye out for Shopped too.
Will PM YowlYY now for address.
ETA: posted 10/1/06
It is currently No.6 on my Mount TBR of rings and rays, so I expect it to move to the next reader some time in February. I hope it's ok!
Being a vegetarian, my main interest was to see what was the story behind the vegetables and supermarkets, and I was shocked to read especially about the exploitation of both people and soil that is being perpetraded in the name of "giving choice" to the customer, not to mention the issue on crops highly sprayed with pesticides and poisons just to give the blamishless appearance supermarkets insist on.
Although my personal shopping is about organic vegetables only, I buy huge amounts of salad and greens for my rabbits there, because most of what I give them is not to be obtained in local shops (yes, I know...they're spoiled! LOL). Because I want to change this, I will start growing the salads and veggies for the rabbits in my garden from March on, and spending money on salad of the supermarket only in extreme crisis.
I have experimented with organic boxes delivery schemes for the last two years, but most of our organic vegetables were bought at the supermarket, just because it was so convenient to have the food there whenever you wanted it (or almost!). However, delivering them was at times problematic, especially when I was back in London, as I was working for most of the day and having the box delivered at work wasn't practical, as I would have had to carry it on bus back home. I looked into organic farmers markets, but in London they were nowhere near where I used to live.
Now, I have discovered in Nottingham the organic farmers markets, taking place three Saturdays out of four in a month, twice in West Bridgford, and I will be buying more there. Also, I found out last Saturday at the market that one of the stands do also deliver their veggies to private homes or to the working place, so I will be using the service when I cannot go to the market when I am away travelling the country.
Mostly, I was shocked by the impact that our shopping habits are having on the Third World countries and on the international migration of folks - it is a sad state of affairs that hopefully can be changed if more of us try just a bit to lift off our bum from the comfy sofa we've been resting for so long - not only in order to improve our world, but also for our own health.
Thanks so much to ermintrude75 for sharing this book - I ordered two copies of it, and two in Italian: I have kept one in English for my PC, I have sent the other to a friend in Belgium, and out of the two copies in Italian one will be passed on to my family, and the other will be a bookring for the Italian bookcrossers, because even if in Italy we haven't reached the same tragic situation yet, purchasing habits are sadly changing there too, and some big supermarket chains are slowly taking over.
Photo courtesy of tmanto
and back to ermintrude75
I shall pass the book today to droogie at the mini meetup taking place in Beeston at the Bean in approx. two hours.
Photo courtesy of murray_fortescue
I have always enjoyed 'real' food and ready meals always taste dodgy - now I know why!
(Winding people up no end by suggesting they might like to read bits!)
Finished and read (in part) by half a dozen others willingly or otherwise in the office. Sadly main foodbuyer in the house argues on basis of cost and farmers markets and organic - cost more. Still am employing pester power to at least see that stonegrowned bread and trips to local farmer for eggs and the occasional tray of chicken are on the agenda.
Its an uphill struggel - but the reality of that struggel is firmly brought home when the book mentions that the oil protesters who barricaded the fuel distribution centres over road and fuel taxes, left the govt with little choice but to break the deadlock as the country was literally running out of bread.
Have PM'd next on list for address.
A very interesting and disturbing book that has made me think about my food buying. I shall be looking into veg box deliveries as our local farmer's market is only every other month.
PMing wyldetwo for her address.
It's certainly made us both think more about what we eat, although being vegetarian and trying to eat a lot of organic and fairtrade food already, I suppose we had already done quite a lot of thinking!
Will PM tiggsybabes to get this moving again soon.
PMing Decembermum for her address now ....
I'm looking forward to reading it.
Thanks for sharing.
all love & care
Just to set out my starting point, as this seems one of those books which has the potential to effect change: I'm a lacto-ovo-vegetarian with a keen interest in food issues and a young and fussy family (including a non-vegetarian husband) Our current shopping habits are a weekly fruit veg and salad box from the local organic shop and an Ocado/Waitrose delivery every 10 days or so, with top-ups of things which are unavailable or especially expensive from Sainsbury's which is our nearest supermarket and we drive there. My husband, having worked in a local greengrocer as a teenager is adamantly opposed to using them and neither of us find the majority of local shops to provide personal, friendly service with good information about their products - if anything, worse than the supermarkets. We eat a fair few 'meat substitutes' and ready meals due to ill-health compromising my energy levels, but I enjoy cooking when I am up to it. I like to ponder ethical issues and do try to buy with an eye to health and ethics.
I liked the way the book doesn't just single out The Baddy and presents a more complex picture, pointing out that even the directors of the big supermarkets are under pressure, although some parts of the chain are clearly more powerful and more blameworthy than others. I have long felt that our obsession with cheap food is a big part of the problem. Occasionally when there is discussion of just how much we spend on food I feel embarrassed and extravagant, rather than a prudent investor. However, she shows that it isn't as simple as being prepared to pay more, that the money isn't always going into improved quality or production methods.
The book again claims that food has become tasteless and scentless - well, I don't remember strawberries tasting or smelling as fantastic as the organic ones I have enjoyed over the past couple of years. The comments about salt content - follow most recipes for home made and there's a lot of salt in there (which can be left out) I've had some stuff in my veg box that I would not have chosen for myself - and I don't mean just muddy or misshapen or a bit blemished, I mean past it and tasteless. The staff at my local Sainsbury's are friendlier than most small shops (though our Tesco is a truly miserable experience - I wonder if it is a mass work placement for the severely depressed?)
I was very interested in the section about changes in wheat possibly being responsible for the rise in gluten allergy and intolerance.
I find Nigel Slater's Toast a good corrective to the notion that we've never had it so bad in our lifetimes, but there's no doubt from this book that we really do have a lot that is bad and something, many things, need to be done.
Off to Cloggy as soon as the address is confirmed.
Oh well, so there's a few books ahead of this one, but I'm last before the book goes back home to ermintrude75, so maybe I can take an extra week to read it? Unless it sneaks its way to the top of the pile of course......
Journal entry 2 by biba89 from Deventer, Overijssel Netherlands on Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Een draad in het bookcrossing forum over dit boek:
Het is twee uur in de nacht en ik kan er niet van slapen. Ik heb het nog niet eens uit. "Not on the label" van Felicity Lawrence. Het gaat over onze voeding.
Nou probeer ik, zoals meer van jullie, om zoveel mogelijk schoon, dwz biologisch, te eten, zoveel mogelijk producten hier uit de streek, in verband met vervoer en zo, geen Braeburn appels uit Nieuw-Zeeland (no offence Niana), zo min mogelijk bewerkte voedingsmiddelen, al helemaal geen kant-en-klaar maaltijden of in elkaar geknutselde high-tech rommel zoals de kip-nugget. En Max Havelaar, waar mogelijk.
Maar nou weet ik ook weer waarom. Felicity Lawrence, een journaliste voor de Guardian, deed undercover onderzoek naar de oorsprong van onze meest geconsumeerde voedingsmiddelen. Brood, kip, fruit, koffie en nog een paar. Van de achterkant van het boek, een ruwe vertaling:
"Van boerderij naar fabriek en van opslag naar verpakking, ontdekt ze waarom afval van de rundvlees- en varkensslachterij in kipfilet terechtkomt, waarom één derde van alle appels wordt weggegegooid, en waarom brood vol lucht en water zit. En ze laat zien hoe overgewicht, de op slavernij lijkende omstandigheden voor migrante arbeiders, eindeloze files met vrachtverkeer, verruïneerde akkers in Europa en hongerende boeren in Afrika allemaal verband houden met een handjevol grootwinkelbedrijven, die een niet eerder vertoonde controle hebben over wat we eten en waar we het vandaan halen."
Stel je een zandloper voor. Aan de ene brede kant, 160 miljoen Europese consumenten. Aan de andere kant, drie-en-een half miljoen boeren en voedselproducenten, overal ter wereld, die produceren voor de Europese markt. Nou de wespentaille in het midden: 110 inkopers, van alle grote Europese supermarktketens - Ahold, Lidl, Aldi, Carrefour, Sainsbury's en zo nog een paar. Zet een pijltje bij de wespentaille. Een woord bij het pijltje: Macht. Beter gezegd: Almacht. Bijvoorbeeld om de producenten uit te wringen met inkoopprijzen die hem dwingen om onderbetaalde en zwartwerkende illegalen in te huren - voor zo lang als de oogst duurt. Om van een appelboer te eisen dat een bepaald soort appels een 'blozing' - rood op een groene ondergrond - van tussen de 15 en 17 % mag hebben. Daar is een apparaat voor, de "Greefa Intelligent Quality Sorter" die dat meet, per vierkante millimeter, al het anders gebloosde fruit wordt tot pulp vermalen, daar krijgt de boer geen geld voor. Ach, je hebt het allemaal wel gehoord, het geknoei met vlees, de hoeveelheid pesticiden, het gesleep met grondstoffen de wereld over, het verlies van smaak ten gunste van 'shelf life' en zo verder. Ik wist er ook wel van, zelfs meer dan gemiddeld, maar niet eerder zag ik de verbanden tussen het één en het ander zo duidelijk en werd ik zó boos van de voorbeelden en de immense onrechtvaardigheid.
Denk nou niet meteen: maar dat wil ik helemaal niet weten, want ik kan er toch niks aan doen - dat kun je wel. Er zijn alternatieven genoeg en God weet dat we het niet redden met 160 miljoen consumenten die het niet willen weten en er gewoon aan mee blijven betalen.
Twee redenen om niet meer te eten wat de voedingsindustrie je voorzet:
Je wordt genaaid waar je bijstaat
Je kunt er ziek van worden.
Nog een paar redenen, die ik ook wel zwaarwegend vind: de planeet wordt er ziek van, de mensen die de grondstoffen produceren, worden genaaid waar ze bijstaan en alle winsten gaan naar een paar multinationals. Nou, laat mij dan maar lekker van de boerderij eten en dan wat minder vaak vlees.
Dit exemplaar van het boek heb ik geleend, van een niet-crosser, maar misschien mag ik hiervan een ring maken, anders zorg ik zelf voor een exemplaar.
Ik schrijf vast in, ik ben zo vrij:
En verder? iiwi? dutch-flybaby? Elefteria? nrrdgrrl? Plinius? owlet, als je tijd hebt?
Grappig, drie van de recensie-uitspraken zijn zeer van toepassing: "I can't remember when a book made me more angry."
"This book doesn't make for a good night's sleep (nee, inderdaad, het is nu kwart voor drie 's nachts) but is compusily readable. It is the sort of book that changes attitudes."
"This is a great book that anyone who eats, should read." En daar besluit ik het maar mee.
Journal entry 3 by biba89 from Deventer, Overijssel Netherlands on Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Er vormt zich een ring.
- niana, maar die heeft 'm zelf inmiddels
- iiwi - leest hem nu
en terug naar mij.
Journal entry 4 by biba89 from Deventer, Overijssel Netherlands on Wednesday, October 19, 2005
En nu heb ik het uit. Vooral het laatste hoofdstuk is zeer inspirerend, want het is niet allemaal ach en wee en wat is het toch verschrikkelijk, maar vooral: en nu is het genoeg geweest. Dit kunnen wij zelf allemaal doen om iets te veranderen. En dan beschrijft ze hoe ze zelf de dingen organiseert met betrekking tot het eten voor haar gezin met drie kinderen, midden in Londen.
Een nieuwe ringlijst:
Het vorige exemplaar is via Olifant, iiwi en gnoe bij uhmm terechtgekomen en daar gebleven. Ik zal de overige ringdeelnemers nog even aanschrijven of ze nog mee willen doen. Dan werk ik deze lijst wel bij.
- mopperhond -wil weer meedoen
- dutch-flybabe - wil meedoen
- Emmeken - hier is-ie nu
- jehanne - wil meedoen
- granuaile - wil meedoen
en terug naar biba89.
CONTROLLED RELEASE NOTES:
Handed over to nrrdgrrl, the first one on the list. She would read it and send it off before returing to South Africa!
ever since i moved to south africa i have been wondering whether food processes run differently there. the food tastes much much better... it also costs much much less. which seems to be a consequence of government pricing policy, not of shady subsidies. but who am i to know? maybe i'll find out now. i already know quite a bit about the european food industry so i'm curious to learn new things.
eet smakelijk!/enjoy your meal!/geniet die kos!/[i will fill in the zulu or setswana version once i find out :) ]
my husband was educated as a food technologist and worked as an institutional chef later. hence he hijacked the book. he took it with on a business trip to the middle east - i think it was dubai but it could have been anywhere in that region.
and he left the book.
anyway. i did read it now. or, to be more truthful, i read it diagonally. either ms. lawrence is very long-winded or i am very impatient. most likely both of the above. i just couldn't find the patience to follow every sidetrack, however interesting, without a hint of where we were going. it may also have been caused by my previous knowledge.
never mind that. it is interesting stuff, it seems well researched, and it must be great as reference material. that is also worth something.
i have received mopperhond's address and will send the book off this week. i might not have internet access at that time to report so properly, so now you know already :)
edit: haven't managed to get to a post office in the past week, am taking the book home and will send it off from south africa.
CONTROLLED RELEASE NOTES:
"it looks like a christmas tree" said the post office employee after affixing all the stamps. ah well, as long as it gets there...
apologies for not having been able to make the detour to the post office sooner. book is finally on its way to mopperhond and should arrive within two weeks.
(made this a release note due to the low reliability ratings of sa post)
Last week I was in my local supermarkets and noticed tomatoes announced as "smaaktomaten" (taste tomatoes) and apples as being extra tasty as well. Apparently taste does matter for the consumer. And yes, of course they were more expensive than other tomatoes and apples.
Anyway, I am happy to have had the chance to read this book finally after the previous one got lost somewhere. I'll PM Janna2 for her address.
Biba bedankt voor het ringen en Mopperhond voor het versturen!
Anyway, what am I going to do about eating protein now... I can't seem to get myself to buy meat in the supermarket at the moment. I didn't mind eating chicken on my pizza in the Italian restaurant this evening, but preparing it myself... ? Not at the moment. I've bought a bio-falafel burger a few days ago instead :-Haha, I'm NOT going to be a veggie, but might think twice about preparing meat in the future :-P
I did enjoy reading it though, it was very informative and I will definitely change my shopping-habits...
Thanks for ringing this book, biba89. I'll pm the next one.
EDIT: Jehanne wants to be skipped, so the book will be send to Granuaile tomorrow.
CONTROLLED RELEASE NOTES:
On its way to the next reader. Enjoy!
will read this soon.
thank you ermintrude for letting the Dutchies get on with this thread too! :D dankjewel.
Did I read it? Yes. All of it? No. But I did read parts and chapters. Interesting stuff. But as we live in 2011: the info in the book is not new anymore.
Still, if you are not familiar with how your food is treated, or how the people who deal with your food are treated: then this is a must read!
I did contact the next reader up. Will move this book within the next few weeks.
Edit: sent to bookguide on 15 June
This book is well written, an it kept my attention. It could have used some more white lines, though, for there were many long stretches of text.
With each food book I read, I get more determined to be more aware of what I eat. I've actually started baking my own bread while I was reading this one. It is really hard, however, to know what you eat at all times. For example, I normally have lunch at work and I have the sneaking suspicion that none of the food there - except the milk and butter milk - is from outside of the global food industry. So, I guess I'm taking up bringing my own sandwiches again...
Many things shocked me in this book, but one thing which stuck out as absolutely crazy was the example of the lettuce imported to the UK from California! Also the fact that organic chickens, whilst reared more naturally and humanely, are subsequently killed in the same plants as industrial chickens. I am beginning to think my vegan friends may be right.
Living in the Netherlands, I think that the situation is slightly better here than in the UK, as town centres still contain bakers, greengrocers and fishmongers, although the butchers are becoming few and far between. Many people shop daily, and cycle to get there, so local supermarkets are common in housing estates, usually franchised from regional or national chains, so they still perform a function as a community meeting place. There are larger supermarkets, but the out-of-town hypermarket common in the UK is not common at all. The ready meal is also less prevalent here, although plenty of people cook using packets of spices. As a side note, it always amuses me that if you ask a Dutch person what they're planning to cook, they will tell you the vegetable, not the meat, as would be the case in England; I'd like to think that is because they value the vegetables more highly, but it may be because everyone knows what the accompaniment will be if you tell them you're eating red cabbage or cauliflower.
The concept of "food deserts" is quite shocking, and I like the idea of cooperative projects being set up to solve the problem at a grass-roots level. Equally, despite the fact that supermarkets in the UK now carry 20,000 lines (instead of 8,000 previously), the consumer's choice is being limited to what the food industry can make the most money on: "What we are allowed to purchase, from the type of music to the variety of tomato or brand of beer, is being determined by buyers operating in the supermarkets' interests rather than the consumers'." (p.153) That supermarkets can blackmail suppliers and manufacturers into paying them for shelf space and advertising beggars belief. Equally, foods are broken down into their constituent pieces, adulterated with chemicals, then reassembled into something that resembles a recognisable food in such a way that the consumer, even if he reads the label, cannot decide if the product will feed him or harm him in the long term. I've long been suspicious that the fat that's removed from some products to make them low fat, must be being reused somewhere else in a disguised form.
One of the things which I wasn't so aware of was the social impact of the global market, both in the UK and in developing countries. I hadn't realised that British sugar was subsidised and dumped, undercutting cane sugar producers in the tropics, and that the supermarkets have such a stranglehold on farmers in developing countries, as well as those in the EU. Just-in-time systems are all very well for factories producing consumer goods (although the children kept waiting for the latest Nintendo console at Christmas may not agree), but the same system for food can be disastrous. It seems unimaginable that so many migrant workers around Europe (as well as elsewhere) are allowed to live in such squalor, without rights, and more often than not illegally, at a time when governments all seem to want to cut down on immigration.
This book is absolutely essential reading, and I also recommend 'Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World' by Greg Critser, which goes deeper into the scandalous subsidies paid to palm oil producers in Malaysia, and the insiduous addition of palm oil and high fructose corn syrup into almost everything we eat and drink. It is another eye-opening book.
ETA: Elefteria wil het niet meer lezen. PM naar rroos op 15 aug.
This book has been released as part of the following BookCrossing challenges:
- The Ultimate Challenge - read and release books, with extra points for a monthly theme
- Reduce Mount TBR (To Be Read) - read and release books on the TBR list since before June 2010. My reading goal is 75 books.
- Pages Read Challenge - read a self-set target number of pages in 2011. My goal is 25,000.
Anyway, hij heeft het niet uitgelezen, vond het wel interessant maar wat langdradig na een tijdje. Ik heb de samenvatting gekregen, en het boek mag weer verder reizen! Ik ga Alexandra pm'men. Maak releasenotes als het op de post gaat.
Thanks for sending it en ringing it! Will be back soon with a review.