Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ethical Consumerism – The First Foray

After having made the decision to start being more aware of where what I buy comes from, and just what I am supporting with my dollar, I did this week’s shop pretty much as an experiment. I am never going to assimilate all the information on all the companies out there, so I figured I would buy as I usually do, and then do the research. Yes, I probably could have done my research first, but the sad fact is I can’t remember what brand a lot of the things I buy are, until I see it sitting on the shelf and recognise the colours and pretty pictures. You know, sort of like a friend you went to school with, you don’t know their name, but when you see them, they feel familiar!

The sources I am using at the moment are, the Choice website, a whole lotta Google and the Ethical Consumer Guide, both the website and the handbag-sized book, which I sure will be handy as I get more educated, but at the moment constantly referring to it whilst wrangling a 3 year old with the exuberance of a baby lamb, steering a trolley who clearly has a murder-suicide pact with the end-of-aisle displays, whilst simultaneously trying to maintain a conversation with my slightly dotty mother and actually complete my shopping before Christmas is only slightly easier than negotiating world peace.

So, working through the receipt from today’s shop, here is how I went. Overall, I’m pretty happy with this shop, as I mentioned in my last post, a lot of the time I have to make sacrifices between what I’d like to be buying, and what we can actually afford.

Campbell’s Vegetable Stock – Campbell’s have received some criticism of not labelling GMO foods, and are on record for having donated money towards overthrowing a ruling that would make them, but have no other though.

Campbell’s also own Arnott’s, whose biscuits I usually buy (Milk Arrowroots) but today I took advantage of a special and bought the Goodman Fielder owned Paradise brand biscuits. I haven’t tried them yet but if they are yummy I will continue to buy them anyway, as they are made in Australia (despite being almost an Aussie icon, Arnott’s are now owned by Campbell’s, an American company) and the Ethical Consumer Guide listed them as no criticisms, and strong praise for GE-free brands and being a signatory to the National Packaging Covenant (2008).

Tuscan Meatball meal base - Masterfoods - I usually don’t like to use these, but sometimes I am tempted to buy one that looks yummy or has been recommended, then make my own version from scratch. I did this recently with a Tomato & Onion Sausage Slow Cooker recipe base, and my home version is actually nicer. I choose this one as it sounded appealing and had no preservatives, numbers etc. included. Masterfoods products are made by Mars Australia, owned by Effem Foods Pty Ltd, who in turn are owned by Mars Inc. Mars Inc. has been criticised for continuing to exacerbate the problems of child labour and poverty by refusing to enter Fair Trade agreements with Cocoa farmers. Mars, as the largest chocolate and candy company in the world, with annual sales of more than $20 billion, has the highest responsibility and the most resources to offer Fair Trade Certified chocolate, so it is terribly disappointing that they don’t.

Therefore – no more Masterfoods products.

A2 milk – produced by Freedom Nutritional foods, no information available other than non-compliance with a voluntary signing of the NPC. I choose it though as the A2 casien is much less likely than the A1 caseins in normal milk to set of allergies and asthma, which GG is high-risk for.

I drink Shape – made by Lion Nathans, owned by Kirin Holdings. Hematech (a division of Kirin) have received criticism for genetically modifying beef cattle for anti-body production. I need to look into this further to decide how I feel about it. At first glance it smacks of animal testing, but my feeling is it may be similar to how draft horses are used to produce anti-venon to save lives from snakebites etc. The animals are usually kept in quite good conditions, because they need to be in robust health for the process to work. Initially very, very small amounts of venom (or viruses, I guess) are injected into the animal, and as their system produces anti-bodies for it, larger amounts are introduced. Eventually, the animal has a large amount of anti-bodies in its system which can be taken from blood drawn from the animal and isolated. I am trying to find more information on if this process is similar to what Hematech do, but need to do more digging.

Custard and cream – Pauls – made by Parmalat Australia, but owned by Parmalat, an Italian company. They get a strong tick from the Ethical Consumer Guide, so I’ll happily continue buying this brand. Again, I would buy organic from a health store if and when I can afford it, but for now, it’s good enough.

Mainland cheese – NZ owned Fonterra Co-Operative Group, also gets a tick from the ECG.

I also bought Coles brand pork sausages, mince and gravy beef. I’m happy with the mince and beef, I’d prefer organic, but can’t afford it this week, but at least it’s Australian and I’m happy with the standard of animal welfare for beef cattle in Australia.

Be Natural Muesli Bars – these are made by Kelloggs. This was a judgemental call, I’m not a fan of their marketing tactics, especially for cereals like Nutri-Grain, and they actually have a boycott call out at the moment for refusing to use only GE-Free Sugar, but this wasn’t as important to me as not buying the Uncle Toby’s brand, who are owned by Nestle, and we are boycotting Nestle due to their continuing to use cocoa from the Ivory Coast, despite the use of forced and unforced child labour there, and their appalling practices in aggressively and irresponsibly marketing baby formula in developing countries, esp. Africa.

Wiggles branded kids Weet-Bix – made in Australia by Sanitarium, who are actually owned by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which I didn’t know, but I’m still happy to buy the products.
Helgas Soy & Linseed bread – a Goodman Fielder company. This again was a judgement call. Whilst their advertising for Meadow Lea pissed me off, that isn’t enough of a reason for me not to buy this brand. Their record on the use of palm oil might be in the future though – they are members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, but are yet to take any action on this. I’m giving them a bit of rope, seeing if they will hang themselves.

Fruit & Veg
I also bought my fruit and veg from Coles today. I usually like to but these from the local growers at my neighbourhood Farmers Market, at least until my own garden starts producing again, but I know we have plans for this Sunday morning so I won’t get there, and besides, what would GG eat til the end of the week? I will try to buy more from there in future, or at least from my local Wray Organic store, who source from local growers.

I hope I haven’t bored you completely to tears with this post, this is more about me wanting to be more accountable, rather than me wanting to entertain you (as much as I desperately do, you understand), and if you have made it this far, thank you, now go get a life!!!



  1. We (well me) are avid label readers here, so I'm finding these posts so far very interesting and informative - thank you :)

  2. I've been reading you for a little while now, but this is my first time commenting. Thanks very much for this post; there were a few things I didn't know: the Masterfoods issue for example.(Mars also STILL tests on animals, btw) And Campbells as well - guess that's the kick in the bum I've been waiting for to make my own stocks, particularly since I can grow all the vege parts.


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