We are always being told that fresh, natural and whole unprocessed food is what we should be eating. And so many of us try and buy food accordingly. But how fresh is fresh? I recently came across a study that had investigated some typical supermarket produce and it gave some worrying conclusions.
‘Fresh’ vegetables can be up to 10 days old before they go on sale, especially if they are sourced from overseas. Baking potatoes can be up to 6 months old.
Many of the apples sold in the UK are sourced from foreign growers. It can take up to 6 months before they go on sale. In the meantime they are often treated with wax to give them a shiny and ‘healthy’ appearance and kept in special containers along with special gases to prevent them from rotting.
Bananas are at least 10 days old before they get to the consumer and those wrapped in plastic can be up to 25 days old. Furthermore bananas are usually picked before they are ripe. They are then stored in special containers and treated with various gases until they reach the ‘right’ amount of colour and ripeness for the customer.
Fruit juice, especially juice in cartons made from concentrates, can be up to a year old by the time you purchase it.
But surely dairy produce must at least be fresh?
Well unfortunately not. Eggs are sold up to 10 days after being laid. Milk is usually three days old before we buy it and then it stays useable for up to a week or so when refrigerated.
Bread is an even worse case – it can be up to 10 days old before it’s sold. But mass produced bread often lasts for days after purchase due to all of the preservatives and mould inhibitors that it contains. Compare the time a freshly baked loaf stays edible as compared to a typical sliced loaf.
Even meat and fish is not as fresh as you might think.
Fish can preserved on ice for several days before it reaches the supermarket and once there can remain on the shelves for a further four days before you buy it.
‘Fresh’ meat can be a few weeks old before it reaches the shelves and products such as New Zealand Lamb can be up to 2 months old before they are put in front of the consumer.
So the answer is that if you want to eat fresh fresh food then you need to buy it as close to the source as possible; local farm shops, local butchers, quayside fishermen, ‘pick your own’ farm, local markets, or if you are able then grow your own.