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Green challenges

Thinking global and acting local, Julie Grundy takes on any challenge we throw at her.

How can you tell which food is local?

Shopper checking a lable

Credit: iStockphoto

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It's all very well to say we should be eating local, but how do you find out what's within your range? It can take a little detective work, but here are the clues to look for on product labels:

  • Product of Australia: this means that each main ingredient is from here, and most of the processing is done here too.
  • Made in Australia: means that the ingredients must have been significantly "transformed" here, and half the production costs were incurred here.
  • Made in Australia from local & imported/imported & local ingredients: means that there are definitely some imported ingredients in the product.

Choice Magazine shares an interesting tip with us about this last one - if the word 'local" comes first, that means the main ingredient is local, and if "imported" comes first, then the main ingredient is imported.

Another useful tip for packaged foods is to check where the supplier's office is. It can be an extra little clue about what state the food is from, when you're trying to choose between two "product of Australia" items.

Unpackaged food - like fruit and veg, fish, and food from the deli counter in supermarkets - also has to have the country of origin written on a label next to the food. If they don't, you need to report them to the Food Standards department.

I've noticed too that some supermarkets and fishmongers are noting whether the seafood has been wild caught, or farmed. That can be useful if you've got one of those seafood selector guides.

But I like my local greengrocer's method best: they get about half of their fresh products from nearby market gardens, so they label those items with extra cardboard signs with the suburb on them. It makes it easy for me to pick the apples grown within my 160km limit instead of the ones trucked in from interstate.

How about you? What do you look for, and have you had any trouble getting what you need during this challenge?