CHOICE calls ‘fresh’ food into question
Consumer group CHOICE says that while advances in technology and transportation extends the shelf life of food, there is a price for availability and convenience in terms of nutrition and taste.
A variety of techniques are used by the food industry to extend the shelf life of fresh foods, including atmospheric packs, storage of apples in 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP), vacuum packing with carbon dioxide and nitrogen, and of course refrigeration.
CHOICE disputes the description of such products as ‘fresh’. According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) guidelines, ‘fresh’ refers to food put on sale as early as possible after the time of picking, catching or producing.
“Developments in food technology and storage ensure we have a wide range of fruit and vegetables available all year round, but can you call apples that are nine months old truly fresh?” said CHOICE spokesperson Ingrid Just.
“English spinach refrigerated for just eight days loses more than 50% of its key nutrients – so it’s important consumers look beyond appearances when buying fresh produce,” said Just.
“When in doubt reach for frozen or canned options as these can be more nutritious than ‘fresh’ produce transported over long distances and stored for extended periods.”