Fresh, please

14-11-2010

It’s something that happens every once in a while to all of us: you’re waiting to pay for items at the supermarket or grocery store and at the very last second you notice the underside of your egg plant is covered in mold. Or the ends of the cucumber are soggy. Or something in your cart is just plain off. It happened to me most recently at a supermarket after racing through overcrowded aisles I noticed only at the check-out that an expensive pack of peppers was thoroughly rotted. It’s the kind of moment that you vow you’ll never go back to the place again. But often, the choices are limited.

Perhaps, though, such situations could be improved in the future: the Czech Federation of Food and Drink Industries is said to be considering the introduction of a new official category designating fresh groceries and food products, which, among other things would make it more difficult for less-than-conscientious sellers to label pre-frozen foods or other products as “fresh”. I say, yes please – such a measure is long overdue. Many may remember a number of scandals several years ago at various chains that re-stocked long over-ripe items, rewashing meats and slapping on phony consume-by dates. They also used that old pub trick of selling pre-prepared marinade dishes, where the extra hot spices kill off the stench.

It’s not often that you buy meat like that, thank goodness, but it does happen. Pushing for any legislation better guaranteeing a quality product and better consumer protection is a plus by me.

There are other benefits too, say Food and Drink federation representatives, among them shortening the distribution process and - and this sounds encouraging – helping promote quality domestic products. Fresh fruit, meats, vegetables, or breads from local producers can only be a benefit. As it stands now, there are items sold as fresh but are anything but – I’m sure there are days (usually Sunday evening) you just know you won’t find a soft, fresh roll out of the hundreds in the bin. I certainly wouldn’t bet on it.

How strict would the Fresh label be? The head of the Federation of Food and Drink Industries, Miroslav Toman, has said those wanting to use it will have to designate the precise method and date of a food’s processing and include a sell-by-date for sellers, presumably guaranteeing that late products would no longer be accepted and shunted to destinations by distributers.

If fresh, than fresh.

There are complications with designating some pre-packaged items or products frozen after delivery, nevertheless the fact that the food and drink federation is taking the issue head on, seems to be a step in the right direction. Otherwise, things are almost certain to remain unchanged: consumers, burned before, will be burned again. And really, is there anything more discouraging than shopping at a frankly expensive grocery store (thinking, mistakenly, that’s a guarantee of anything) coming home starving and ready to cook lunch, only to find your food has a life of its own?

Sure you can always take it back and cause a scene and demand your money back (and you should) but circumstances don’t always allow it. So, instead, disappointed, you throw the product in the garbage and tell yourself next time you’ll be careful to look more closely… and should you forget, at least have better luck.

14-11-2010