Saturday, April 18, 2009

Why are so many organics encased in plastic?

It's been a puzzle to me for years why so many fresh foods -- fruits and veggies alike -- come in plastic containers of one sort or another. And especially why organic products are so often encased in plastic.

I was wondering about this a couple of days ago while putting up organic strawberries stuffed inside one-pound plastic boxes. I personally think plastic boxes are fine for shipping -- they do help prevent the dreaded squish effect of unpacked berries, after all -- but....

Aren't organics supposed to be a better alternative for the health of the planet, not to mention the health of the people? They cost more, sometimes a lot more, but isn't that the price we should be willing to pay for loving care bestowed by hand as opposed to care bestowed by chemicals? Doesn't such close companionship inside those plastic containers just encourage the mold and mildew to which tender organics are more susceptible owing to a lack of fungicides in their growth, ripening and shipping phases?

I now work for a store that slaps all its berries (except local berries) out for sale inside plastic -- and without careful examination every day, suffer the usual fate of plasticized produce, bruising and its companions rot and mold. This is the first place I've ever worked that didn't take the time to spill berries into molded paper pulp containers before offering them to customers -- and I go along with it because the truth is that it's easier, faster, and most importantly cheaper to toss out pre-packaged berries than it is to take the time to sort through them with the care and respect I believe they deserve. This probably makes me a sellout, but I need the job.

I think you as customers should start asking pointed questions about this practice, particularly as it concerns organics. Start with, Why should I buy an organic product in a plastic wrap when that plastic is likely produced using oil from the Middle East? And go from there.

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