An observation regarding prawns farmed in India and Vietnam and sold under a Bantry producer’s packaging has provoked a debate regarding the provenance of food which many believe as a casual glance to be farmed or caught or grown in Ireland.
“What could be more Oirish than a colouredy little boat setting off to catch fish from a familiar west Cork town?”wrote Pádraig Fogarty, Editor of Irish Wildlife magazine.
He then posted a photo of King Prawns sold by a company from Bantry, but also posted a picture of the back of the package where the small print revealed the prawns had been farmed in India and Vietnam.
He added the hashtag #greenwashing – a term used to describe efforts to convey an impression about goods or services, often about green credentials but sometimes about Irish produce.
— Pádraic Fogarty (@whittledaway) March 27, 2022
The tweet provoked a debate about the provenance of food which is perceived as being Irish – and whether companies need to be clearer in regard to the source of the goods they are marketing.
Several responses pointed to just how widespread the practice of using a very Irish brand name to sell produce which is produced elsewhere is.
One woman shared another photo of a Donegal Catch product, drawing attention to the fact that the pollock was caught in the pacific ocean, and then processed in Poland. It’s not the source most people imagine from the whimsical adverts featuring hardy fishermen that are used to sell the company’s products.
“From Alaska to Poland and back to Ireland. A long way from Donegal,” as one comment observed. “What a load of pollocks,” another wrote.
From Alaska to Poland and back to Ireland. A long way from Donegal.
— Anna Pringle (@annapr) March 28, 2022
Another posted that “family ham” from “O’Carrolls of Tullamore” was “packaged in Ireland using EU Pork…”. Not what might be expected without close observation.
"O'Carroll's Family Ham…" "packaged in Ireland using EU Pork…" pic.twitter.com/VYpjwE1mEp
— Karen_Kelly (@Kay2_Kelly_) March 28, 2022
However, one woman hit back, saying that it was wrong to “malign the producer” when the marketing policy was “perfectly legitimate” under EU regulations.
“If you want to make a point about the inadequacy of EU food labelling policy (which is entirely reasonable and your prerogative of course) perhaps you should redact the details of the company involved. It’s wrong to malign the producer where the activity is perfectly legitimate,” she said.
And that is a fair point. EU regulations allow companies marketing as, say, “The Little Beautiful Irish Cottage” to sell stuff manufactured in Latvia as long as that’s acknowledged somewhere in the small print on the back.
It also points to one of the most obvious and harmful consequences of globalisation: the move away from locally produced goods, and the race to the bottom as goods are sourced where labour and most everything else is cheaper. This is bad for small producers, for families, for food quality – and, since, the food is racking up thousands of airmiles – bad for the environment.
As one comment noted, Tesco were selling spring onions from Egypt and pre-cut basil from Kenya when he went shopping for veg. From the point of protecting local businesses or the planet, that makes no sense at all.
This spring onion pic is from this day last year, Tesco Bray but still!! Went to get precut basil recently…Kenya! Bought a basil plant from Wexford 🙄 pic.twitter.com/7oJduH39sw
— David Wilkins (@DavidWi85904448) March 28, 2022