Come on supermarkets, give us those spotty apples

Organic food is too hard to find, says Jeanette Longfield
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The Independent Online
Going through the revolving doors of the supermarkets I am sucked into a weird world of plastic-wrapped, glossy-packed food products that seem to have no origin. The merchandise is simply there, on shelves. The shelves are supplied from store-rooms hidden behind plastic flapping doors. Beyond that ... nothing.

That was before the BSE row began. Now I am a little wiser. Now I have learnt what some farmers were feeding their livestock, and what goes on inside an abattoir. Now I have learnt that boiled animal bones were used for medicines, sweets, Easter eggs and make-up; that tomato paste is made with genetically modified organisms; that antibiotics are used routinely in animal feed to promote growth.

I want to do something to make sure my food is produced humanely, without damaging the environment, with no unnecessary additives or bizarre ingredients or hi-tech processes, and that it is fresh, safe and nutritious. I wander, with relief, over to the organic food section. Only to find that I need to take out a mortgage for a pound of minced meat, and I have a meagre two choices of apple varieties, and that one of those looks rather, well, sad.

I've heard about special schemes where the local organic farmer delivers boxes of fresh goodies to your door each week. I've also heard that, at certain times of the year, all you get is spuds and cabbage, and I'm not sure I like bubble and squeak that much. I could grow my own I suppose. The satisfaction of growing your own broccoli, cutting the florets in the garden to put straight into a pot of boiling water in the kitchen. Cheap, fresh and organic. But then I've got cats, and doesn't what cats do in the garden do unspeakably toxic things to your veg?

So is it back to the plastic, conventional world of agro-chemically produced, ecosphere-damaging, cruel Frankenfoods?

Not for me. Never mind that organic meat costs more. I'll just buy less of it. Never mind that organic fruit and veg looks a bit odd. I'll get used to it and, anyway, it's tasty. I'll join one of those organic delivery schemes - I'm sure Delia has lots of wonderful recipes for cabbage, and I'm going to put those broccoli seeds in this weekend. And just for good measure, I'll be sending my cheque to a charity campaigning for action.

In the meantime, I shall march through those supermarket revolving doors and ask to see the manager. I want food with character, flavour and a known pedigree - I want food I can trust. Perhaps, as I walk out, I'll say: "I shall shop elsewhere."

The writer is co-ordinator of the National Food Alliance, an umbrella body for voluntary organisations and charities, but is writing in a personal capacity.

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