This is an important point for us advocates of sustainability. We're only addressing one of the qualities that make food "good" when we talk about sustainbility, and probably not one of the most important qualities in the minds of consumers.
If sustainable seafood turns out to be lousy seafood, then we have a BIG problem.
Seafood consumers want good seafood. That includes quality, reliability, safety, sustainability, and price-price-price. Single issue certifications have value, like the Marine Stewardship Council sustainability label. But I once heard a major seafood buyer complain: "I can buy MSC-certified seafood that is rotten, so what good is the MSC label?"
MSC is not about freshness, but the buyer has a good point. In fact, I think freshness problems are especially important for seafood that is supposed to carry a special value like sustainability.
So this turns into an open question...how can sustainability advocates unite sustainability with other issues like safety? If we don't have a good answer, then we may hit problems like the story below about organic peanut butter.
The New York Times story that prompted me to write this post tells a chilling tale about a consumer choosing safe peanut butter over organic peanut butter. It starts with a description of the food value of the contaminated peanut butter that's been much in the news recently:
The plants in Texas and Georgia that were sending out contaminated peanut butter and ground peanut products had something else besides rodent infestation, mold and bird droppings. They also had federal organic certification.Has this problem affected buyers of organic food? Here's one personal story, again from the New York Times:
Meanwhile, consumers remain perplexed about which food to buy and which labels assure safer and better-tasting food.That's an "ouch" moment for organic food. Tweet
Emily Wyckoff, who lives in Buffalo, buys local food and cooks from scratch as much as possible. Although she still buys organic milk and organic peanut butter for her three children, the organic label means less to her these days — especially when it comes to processed food in packages like crackers and cookies.
I want to care, but you have to draw the line,” she said.
But the line stops when it comes to basic food safety.
Recently, a sign near the Peter Pan and Skippy at her local grocery store declared that those brands were safe from peanut contamination. There was no similar sign near her regular organic brand.
“I bought the national brand,” she said. “Isn’t that funny?”