Monday, January 23, 2012

We are not alone

It seems to me that the most printed three words in the English language must be "Made In China" (MiC if you're texting) or "Product of China." Not just traditional Asian food products and non-edible items, but just about everything ~ food, appliances, clothing ~ being the big three. I certainly try and avoid many Chinese foodstuffs, particularly after the great melamine in the milk episode which until  this very moment, I didn't realise included Cadbury's Eclairs! And in the realm of chain store clothing, it's almost impossible to find an item that doesn't contain those three words, including our 'very own' Bond's. And for crying out loud, it appears that even eBay has been overrun with products located in China. (Beware the postage rort.)

So how to avoid it, if that's your inclination. Well, food's not too hard. Keep anything processed to a minimum. Be vigilant around fresh food labelling. And I'm not singling out China here. I don't want an American lemon for crying out loud! Australian laws require fresh fruit and veg to display country of origin.  It gets tricky when  you're buying an Australian manufactured product made from "local and imported ingredients".

Clothes ~ a no-brainer, buy vintage. It's cheaper, cuter, and utilises an existing resource. A lot of the labels will still be intact, and you'll be able to find out what CITY it was made in. Whatever your style, you'll be able to do it. And if you think you've got no style, I guarantee you'll find it.

I have nothing against something being from somewhere else, per se. Let's face it, an exquisite bohus jumper from Sweden, is all the more beautiful because it comes from well... Sweden. But therein lies the difference. Provenance.  I will seek out Vietnamese fish sauce (it's different to Thai fish sauce) and when I find it, I rather hope it was produced in Vietnam. And curry powder. Happy for it to be made in India.  Hey, happy to buy oyster sauce from China. Provenance.  (As an aside though, I've always wondered by some clever dick didn't start making it here in Australia when our oysters looked too ugly for public consumption one year.) But orange juice, where sometimes the only Australian component is the bottle and the water. What's with that? I just went through my pantry reading labels, and now I'm curious as to exactly what "Product of Australia" actually means...

Now I know, courtesy of the Victorian state government:
‘Product of Australia’ means that significant ingredients must come from Australia and most of the processing should happen here too. A ‘Made in Australia’ statement may only mean that the food was ‘substantially transformed’ here and that a certain proportion of the production costs were incurred here. These definitions are currently under review.

Hmm, that last sentence intrigues me. Are they 'under review' in a good way? And what are those unempirical terms 'significan' and 'substantially transformed' mean?

Or should I just put this away, forget about where it was made, and concentrate on HOW it was made? Treatment of labor force, safety in workplace, right to organise. It's a minefield I tell you. And if I'm going to be a good citizen, more research is definitely required.

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