Fair Trade Foods

by Catherine Haug

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is featuring several articles on the Fair World Project; one in particular caught my eye: How Do You Know It’s Really Fair Trade?

“Fair trade” means that the grower/producer of a food gets fair compensation for his work and the quality of his food. It means that he gets his fair share – that the middlemen don’t take it all, so that the grower doesn’t need to take cheap short-cuts that degrade the quality of his food. This is especially important for growers in developing countries, of foods like chocolate, coffee, bananas and other fruits.

Many of us have learned to look for the “Fair Trade” logo, but as the article points out, there are many different logos and certification programs, and there is no standardization like there is with the Organic seal. Read the original article for an in-depth look at this problem. You can also learn more on the Fair Trade USA website.

Shop Local: Real Fair Trade

When it comes to really and truly “fair trade,” nothing beats going direct to the local farmer or producer in your own community. Inspect for yourself his fields and practices, and the quality of his food. This is important for foods you consume every day, such as milk, meat, eggs, grains and flour, fruits and vegetables.

Of course, some foods cannot be grown here, such as coffee, chocolate, etc., and then it’s important to know that the grower is getting fair trade for his labors through third-party certification organizations.

It used to be that “Grown in the USA” meant this was a quality food, but this is no longer necessarily true. The USA is the major producer of GMO foods, for example. Much of our supermarket produce comes from factory farms that use insecticides, pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers because their soil is poor and they want to minimize their costs by eliminating human labor.

Supermarket milk and dairy products are ultra-pasteurized to protect the consumer from the factory farmer’s unclean practices that pollute his raw milk. But this high-heat, high-pressure process is damaging to the nutritional quality of the food. And because ultra-pasteurization greatly lengthens the shelf life of the milk, you could be drinking milk that is many weeks old!

“Organic” certification provides some protection and assurance of quality foods, but what about so-called Organic foods from other countries like China, where you don’t know if you can trust their certification process? (See my post, Organics From China, for more).

Or, what about Organic ultra-pasteurized dairy products? This milk, like its non-Organic equivalent, will not make cheese because the milk is so altered that the calcium (required for forming curds) is no longer active.

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