Foodfacts Blog editors have encountered some very interesting content that is updated and adapted from the book “1,001 Things They Won’t Tell You: An Insider’s Guide to Spending, Saving, and Living Wisely,” by Jonathan Dahl and the editors of SmartMoney.
1. “Our delectables are as susceptible to germs as the supermarket stuff.”
It used to be that gourmet food was most accessible at upscale restaurants. But now gourmet products are now standard items at local specialty shops as well.
It’s the kind of stuff you can’t wait to taste—but Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety and Quality Enhancement at the University of Georgia, suggests self-control. “I personally would not buy any food exposed to handling,” he says, practically shuddering at the notion of people “taking samples with their fingers.” He points out that these visually-appealing foods may carry germs like salmonella and campylobacter jejuni, (a leading cause of bacterial diarrhea in the U.S.).
Richly-stocked salad bars are probably the worst offenders. Warm temperatures and unsterile prepping conditions can transform a Greek salad into a stomach-turning petri dish. “With some of these salad-bar items, after they’re cut, the diseased organisms can grow and increase to dangerous levels,” says Joseph Frank, a professor in the department of food, science and technology at the University of Georgia. Even at the most posh gourmet emporiums, he adds, “there are no disease-free guarantees.”
Gourmet purveyors say the wash and cook everything properly, put up signs for consumers to use spoons, and require employees to wash their hands constantly. “You do everything you can to keep things scrupulously clean,”says David Grotenstein, head of purchasing at Garden of Eden Gourmet Market in New York. But “sometimes a consumer can introduce bacteria” by, say, sneezing.
2. “Our prices are often tough to swallow.”
Nobody expects good food to come cheap. But it seems that the $59 billion gourmet food industry can exhibit some pretty creative pricing policies.
Within a four-block radius of New York City’s Union Square, for example, the high-end gourmet marketarket sells a pint of raspberry Sharon’s Sorbet for around $5.50; at another store across the park, the store’s raspberry sorbet will cost you around $3.30. Similarly, a package of four Dr. Praeger’s Tex Mex veggie burgers that’s about $6.50 at the higher priced gourmet market sells for around three dollars less at the at a nearby market. And the list goes on.
Why do gourmet shoppers keep coming back if the markup is about the same as at a restaurant? Convenience, for one: Some people just prefer to pick up food and take it home to eat. If you eat at home, you save on a babysitter and tips, plus some consumers like the “total package” offered at these high-end specialty shops. It “makes shoppers happier,” says John Roberts, former president of the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade.
3. “This bottled water could be tap water.”
Some of the hottest items in fancy food stores are the beautifully-packaged bottled waters. In fact, Americans consumed 8.8 billion gallons of bottled water in 2007 – the highest ever – before dropping to 8.7 billion gallons in 2008, according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation. (Preliminary data show consumption fell in 2009 by 2.4%, in part because consumers were cutting back on expenses.)
But despite the pleasing presentation, “a lot of bottled water is not necessarily better than tap water,” explains Adrianna Quintero-Somaini, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco. Consider Aquafina, which sounds vaguely European and is actually bottled by Pepsi. Aquafina is produced in the U.S. and its label states that it is “purified drinking water” that comes from “public water sources” – the same place where tap water comes from. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s just might not be worth paying extra for. A spokesman for Pepsi says that Aquafina uses “a seven-step purification process,” which includes reverse osmosis and carbon filtration. “The product that you begin with is largely different at the end of this process,” he says.
Although the Food and Drug Administration regulates bottled water, some bottled waters could be less healthy than what pours into your sink. Somaini’s agency spent three years testing more than 100 brands of bottled water, and found that some contained traces of fecal contamination and even arsenic. Like many food hazards, those associated with bottled water tend to be hard to detect. “The water can taste fine,” says Somaini, “and still be contaminated.”
Content Source and Image: SmartMoney