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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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  • [January 15, 2016] - It's National Soup Month so this month's posts will focus on soups. Yum!
  • [February 1, 2016] - An interesting report on why you should always choose organic tea verses non-organic: Toxic Tea (pdf format)
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Monday, November 05, 2012

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Point of Origin

Frugal Kitchens 101
We are very much local food consumers (locavores) choosing to buy local foods grown and produced within a 100 mile radius of our home or when at our vacation home within the same distance.  Surprisingly, this actually saves us a considerable amount of money while making our local economy stronger.  We also buy very little in the way of commercially prepared foods (eg. canned or boxed or frozen foods).  When we buy any commercially prepared food, we look for the origin of that food.  By law in Canada the origin of food must be included on the label for all foods sold in the grocery stores.  When we are shopping at the grocery store we choose Ontario grown and produced foods first, followed by Canadian grown and produced with imported foods the last choice.  Don't get me wrong.  It's not like we don't use imported foods but rather the imported foods we use tend to be specialty foods like sea salts, olive oils, seasonings, anchovies, Pomona's pectin and those types of ingredients as well as fruits and vegetables not grown in Canada.

In Canada, two types of wording can be found on food packaging.  The first and best is 'made in Canada' or 'grown in Canada' or 'product of Canada'.  The label may also indicate 'grown in Canada' by using the Province of origin (eg. grown in Ontario).  This is quite helpful when deciding which produce to buy.  For example, if I have a choice between potatoes grown in Ontario and those grown in Nova Scotia, I will choose the Ontario grown because they have had to travel a much shorter distance to reach the grocery stores in our little corner of Ontario.  That means they are fresher, higher in nutrition and have a lower carbon footprint.  The second is 'packaged in Canada', 'packaged for' or 'imported food' meaning the food originated from outside of Canada but was packaged in Canada.  The 'packaged in Canada' is often found on frozen fish products, rices and dried beans even though there are some of Canadian origin.  The third type of label found on foods sold in Canada is 'made using origin ingredient' (eg. made using Belgian chocolate).  All the other ingredients in the product are usually of Canadian origin except that one ingredient.  It then becomes a matter of choice for the consumer as to whether they want these types of foods grown or produced in Canada or grown elsewhere and simply packaged in Canada.

All food sold in Canada must meet the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) requirements still I am leery of buying foods like canned mushrooms which in most of North America are imported from China.  I can buy locally grown mushrooms and can them myself rather than buy an import and besides, cooking locally grown mushrooms from scratch give a superior product to even home canned mushrooms.  We aren't food snobs but I will admit to not buying any food grown or produced in China as much of it is contaminated with radiation or chemicals like melamine and arsenic.  We don't buy fish or seafood imported from Vietnam because it has been packed with ice made from unsafe water laden with bacteria making it unsafe to consume.  At certain times it has been necessary to avoid buying spinach and lettuce of US or Canadian origin due to E. coli, Salmonella, or Listeria contamination.

If you travel between Canada and the US as we, when entering either country any food must be clearly labeled as to point of origin.  We buy certain groceries in the US on a fairly regular basis and our vacation home is in the US.  Some foods are not allowed into either country based on their point of origin.  It may be due a particular problem with that food (eg. an E. coli outbreak in beef) where the food is restricted from entering for a temporary period of time or it could be due to a long term ban of that particular food any number of reasons.  In particular, fruits and vegetables must be in their original packaging that shows point of origin.  You are not allowed to bring loose fruits or vegetables (eg. washed grapes, prepared vegetable salads) into either country.  Restrictions can change daily so it best to check ahead before bringing any food especially dairy, produce, meat, poultry or fish into either country.  In general, there are no restrictions on commercially canned or boxed food other than the amount and some may be restricted based on point of origin.  We have not had any problem bringing in home canned foods to either country.  Of note, while Kinder Surprise (a chocolate egg with small toy inside) is sold in Canada, it is not allowed to enter the US because the FDA views it as a choking hazard.  Typically, it is this type of treat Grandparents may be bring home from their visit so while point of origin may or may not be of concern, other factors may restrict it from entering either country.  Be warned that if you are entering either country then flying inter-province or interstate there will be airline restrictions as to the size of container you can bring in your carry-on and certain items like white powders (eg. Morton's Tender Quick) and dried herbs will likely undergo drug testing.  From experience, Morton's Tender Quick did get a drug testing on our October 2012 vacation.  There are specialty food shops at some airports but before buying anything to bring back into Canada or the US, be sure to check if there are restrictions based on point of origin or type of food.  If you try to bring a restricted food item into either country, the food will be confiscated (and destroyed), you may be assessed penalties such as fines, seizure of your vehicle and/or being barred from entering the country again.  None of these are frugal so don't take the chance.

Quite often larger recalls of contaminated food products are announced in the media but in our global marketplace, it has now become very important to subscribe to advisories, warnings and food recall notices released by CFIA (Canada) and the FDA (USA).  I recommend following both if you spend anytime in either country.  Country of origin, manufacturer or supplier along with the reason for the recall will be noted in the warning.  Both of these government agencies can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.  Both have mobile apps:  CFIA (Android, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Blackberry); FDA (Android, iPhone, Blackberry).

The bottom line is paying attention to the point of origin for the foods you purchase can save you money and prevent you from being affected by food borne illnesses.  It is a way of you, the frugal consumer, of being able to identify those food products that have the potential to cause illness via contamination.  It is also a way to identify those foods that you may for whatever reason (eg. ethics, food safety) choose not to purchase based on the point of origin.  Finally, it is a way of being able to support those points of origin (eg. local, provincial, state, country) that you choose to support.  Always, look for the point of origin for the food you are purchasing if you want to be an informed, frugal consumer.


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