A few weeks ago I heard a program with Michael Pollan in which he mentioned that Trader Joe's was selling organic strawberries from China. But they weren't really organic. So tonight I had a bit of time, the cute guy was sailing, and I went to Trader Joe's to check it out as if they were going to have one of those clever chalk boards advertising fruit from China after the whole dog food scandal. Or was that toothpaste? My only regret is that I didn't have a pencil with a spy camera in it and magnified Jackie O sunglasses. I've always wanted to go undercover.

I didn't find anything from China but here's what I did find and remember. The tomatoes packaged in plastic sets of three were from Canada. The peaches packaged in plastic sets of four scared me and I didn't want to touch them. The cucumbers were from Mexico, organically certified by Quality Assurance International. I don't know who they are. QAI. Sounds fishy. The berries, raspberry and blackberries were from Bristol Farms in Southern California which produces huge amounts of berries shipped all over the country. If you are interested, locally grown berries are actually less expensive at the farmer's markets right now.

I thought Trader Joe's was doing an okay job of labeling where their produce is from. They're making an effort. For the most part if an item is labeled organic they specify a country of origin and if it's not labeled organic they don't. Items grown in California are likely labeled as such in large letters near their logo. Grown in California sells. At minimum one half of their produce items don't specify where they originate but that isn't much different than my corner store. There is room for improvement everywhere.

It still being early I ventured into the middle aisles and read more labels (this is a sure result of not having cable). The organic sugar was from Paraguay, the kalamata olives from Greece, damn it! The organic almonds were from Spain although California is one of, if not the largest producer of almonds in the world. There were two bags of regular almonds grown in the central valley left on the shelf. I threw them in my basket. The price was too good. The olive oil I looked at was a product of Italy, the rice dream from New York.

I set so many items back on the shelf I began to think management was watching me. A man with a clip board and a pencil kept appearing in the same aisle. I smiled in case he took my picture and lifted my head a notch to smooth out my neck. Then I added a Napa Valley Chardonnay to my basket of non-organic almonds and Tom's of Maine toothpaste and decided it was time to go home. Like I said, there is room for improvement everywhere.

1 comment:

kaleforsale said...

I checked it out and QAI is the real deal. They are a third party independent certification organization working in the domestic and international markets. As we outsource more and more of our food production this may not be a bad company to invest in (she says tongue in cheek). Their website is