I had a great question arrive from Dan who wrote: “I am having a harder and harder time finding foods in glass jars (mayo, vinegar, ketchup, etc.). Can you help with a source?” Thanks for the awesome topic to write about Dan! It instantly reminded me of ‘The Ketchup Riddle’ Rick Smith, co-author of Slow Death By Rubber Duck, writes about. Here is the quote from Slow Death by Rubber Duck that is promoted by a late-night run to the supermarket by Rick:
I stood blinking – staring – at the ketchup selection, honestly perplexed.
~ The organic ketchup came in a plastic bottle.
~ Alymer ketchup, an old Canadian brand made from locally grown tomatoes, also came in plastic.
~ The only option in a glass bottle was the non-organic, non-local Heinz ketchup.
Rick summarized his ketchup paralysis and although I found it entertaining to read, imagine putting this much thought into every product we purchase at the grocery store or mall. It does create a type of paralysis for consumers…even eco-savvy ones. I completely agree with Rick in his summary of this situation that only government action can solve the problem of having to choose between limiting packaging containing plasticizing chemicals or pesticide use, or production of local food. Decisions like this creates huge challenges for consumers that want to make better choices, but run up against all of these questions when purchasing something supposedly easy like ketchup.
Some of you might be wondering why Dan is trying to find food that is packaged in glass. The plastic packaging that surrounds our food can contain plasticizers and other chemicals. Food packaging and chemicals like BPA and Phthalates have been very newsworthy lately. This article isn’t aimed to scare you, but we need to be aware that although chemicals like phthalates are starting to be regulated in toys, there isn’t regulation for food packaging because government and large companies don’t think the trace amounts found in packaging is enough to warrant concern. But savvy green consumers are looking for better options. We know that those squeezable plastic bottles that we purchase our condiments contain plasticizers. We know that you cannot find a tin can in your traditional grocery store that doesn’t contains an epoxy liner – containing BPA – that separates the food or liquid from the aluminum can. Lead in juice boxes, produce and meat counters that place our food on styrofoam and wrap in PVC wrap to ensure ‘freshness’ …the list goes on and on. It seems that plastic is most often the material that touches our food and for numerous reasons regularity discussed at Mommy Footprint, we are trying to avoid this – for human health improvement and for the environment. So after saying all this, the easiest way to avoid food that is packaged in plastic is to avoid heavily packaged foods. Don’t worry, this isn’t my only suggestion for Dan, but when you start shopping with a heightened awareness of packaging, little lightbulbs start going off in your heads and even better if you drop a few hints at your local grocer. They have the power to order our favorite condiments in glass jars – it might be the first time they are asked. Take a closer look at what you purchase. I love the example of cheese strings and yogurt tubes. They are a favorite snack item brought out at preschools and lunches in schools all across America. Cheese strings are sold in completely plasticized packaging…right up against the cheese! Once it’s pulled away, you can tell the outside of the cheese string has been effected…it’s rubbery. You are telling me that packaging hasn’t effected the quality of this product? Another is yogurt tubes that are again packaged in plasticized plastic, but then as a treat, many parents pop them in the freezer to serve the yogurt frozen! So we are taking another product containing plasticizers and then weakening the packaging by placing them in the freezer before given them to children to eat. Gross. And yes, I did used to buy and love the convenience of yogurt tubes, but haven’t purchased them in years because of the issue of packaging. I would hope the power of my consumerism helps to drive change even with a basic item such as yogurt.
On to better choices with food and packaging. It does seem to be hit and miss in large grocers with items like ketchup, mayo, etc. and glass containers. I’ve purchased them before but it’s not a guaranteed offering. Visiting a store like Whole Foods will open up many options to you, but here are two that I’ve found online that offer not only better options with the packaging of products they sell, but improving the quality of the food.
Leading the way with their vast line of coconut oil (my new favorite product) this company has a big commitment to understanding how the products they carry are produced and manufactured. I found many organic vinegars, oils, etc. on this site and many are packaged in glass. I thought the products listed under Organic Food category might be helpful for the everyday consumer. This site’s knowledge of coconut oil benefits is amazing and I recently started following their Fan page on Facebook. Lots of great information there!
We’ve talked about Eden Organic before, we love their commitment to packaging their beans in tin cans, without using BPA in the can lining. The food, not surprising, is sourced with supporting organic farmers and providing consumers options that are wheat-free, gluten-free, low in sodium, etc. Funny the parallel in healthy food and better packaging options?! Going through the Eden site, I found juices, sauces, butter, oils, vinegars, tomato products that are packaged in amber glass rather than plastic.
We do seem to have options. They are not endless like the contemporary brands found at traditional grocery stores. Voice your concerns regarding packaging and your food. We are continually talking about making better choices with the food we buy: local, organic, GMO-free, etc. Let’s think about how those products are stored and packaged because trace amounts of chemicals leaching into my food is something I’m concerned about. Stop purchasing food that is packaged in soft plastic and cans and tell your grocery manager why you’ve made this decision. You’ve left the decision in their hands where you’ve decided to spend your money – hopefully these decisions will help inspire change.