Recently I needed some plum jam for a recipe. Plum jam is usually ubiquitous here in Australia, so thinking I’d quickly grab some to have when I made the recipe in a week or so, I dashed down the jam isle at the grocery, in between picking up a short list of essentials. At first scan, I locked in on what looked to be a lovely little homemade looking jar of plum jam called ‘Granny’s Secret’. Being the ever vigilant shopper I read the label: 80% plums and the remaining ingredients were sugar and pectin. Perfect. No nasties and lots of plums. Having not previously seen the brand I had a look for the manufacturer. Hmmm, ‘product of Serbia’. I nearly fell over. As far as I know I’ve never even seen anything from Serbia, let alone bought it.
Since the Serbian contender was about a dollar more a jar than the other well-known brands I decided to at least compare labels. There were three other plum jams none of which had over 40% plum content, HALF the plums of Granny’s Secret. All of them listed either sugar or glucose/fructose syrup as their first ingredient, followed in some cases by some preservatives, grape juice and other things. Cheaper was, well… cheap.
Daily we hear about nutrition, eating organic and consuming products that have a reduced carbon footprint—that is, the total greenhouse gasses dumped into the environment to produce and transport the product or service. Add to that my personal challenges with food sensitivities, and eating has become somewhat of a minefield at times. I can appreciate that not everyone has, or thinks they have, the money to buy the better quality products, but consider what eating half the amount of fruit and twice the amount of sugar might taste like, never mind what it may do to your blood sugar? And don’t even get me started on the use of Fructose for sweetening things! And what if these large multinationals are importing ingredients but manufacturing the product within the country? What is truly good and what is false economy? It is befuddling, to say the least.
Just to be thorough in my research I popped into the local health food store, which is very good. They had not a single jar of any kind of plum jam. So that was that.
What do we choose, the product that contains the best sounding ingredients, or the one that is cheaper and maybe produced ‘locally’?? Michael Pollan writes “In Defence of Food” “Do not eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food.” Probably good advice. It seems granny still has a few little secrets for us!