Archive for the ‘ntuc fairprice’ Category

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Hydroponics / aeroponics are “natural”. Period.

March 15, 2007

In any discussion / debate / argument, we may sometimes reach a point where we feel there is simply no point in pursuing the subject further, because the other person is either on a totally different wavelength, or being absolutely unreasonable.

I reached that point this morning (technically speaking, yesterday morning as it’s past midnight as I write this) when I read the following letter in the ST Forum:

Labelling of vegetables

I REFER to the letter, ‘Organic labelling for vegetables misleading’ (ST, March 12). The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority does not object to the use of the words ‘natural’ and ‘grown naturally’ to describe fresh fruit and vegetables produced using aeroponics or hydroponics, as these methods of farming adopt the same basic principles as conventional farming.

The methods of farm production are also not required by the Food Regulations to be labelled on prepacked fresh fruit and vegetables. However, fresh fruit and vegetables which are labelled as ‘organic’, ‘organically produced’ or words of similar meanings should meet the standards established by the Codex Alimentarius Commission for organically produced food.

Goh Shih Yong
Assistant Director
Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority

 

The above was in reply to my letter published on Monday, about organic labelling of vegetables at the NTUC Fairprice Xtra hypermarket in Ang Mo Kio.

I was stunned and left speechless to read Mr Goh’s response. If our (highly paid) senior civil servants wish to assert that vegetables grown in water or grown suspended in air are “natural”, then I really don’t know what else to say.

Perhaps some of you who are less stunned and speechless than I would take the discussion to the next, higher or lower, level. Or maybe in a day or two, I might recover sufficiently to think of something non-expletive to say.

For now, let me share with you what I discovered this morning.

I went to www.dictionary.com and typed in “natural”. I was led to 22 results, of which the first had 38 meanings and definitions. The closest that comes to explaining how vegetables grown in air or water might possibly be considered natural was definition #34:

An idiot!

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Organic labelling at Fairprice still misleading

March 12, 2007

Some time back, I wrote about Fairprice Xtra hypermarket at Ang Mo Kio changing its misleading “Organic” signboard at its vegetables section to “Specialty Vegetables”.

I wrote then that Fairprice did the right thing to avoid misleading shoppers, but it seems that their staff still don’t know or don’t care about the difference between organic and non-organic, between natural and unnatural.

So I thought it was time to raise the issue in the press rather than just gently informing the staff. Below is my letter on the subject, published today in The Straits Times Forum:

WHEN FairPrice Xtra hypermarket opened in Ang Mo Kio, it had a big sign in the vegetable section that said ‘Organic’.

However, only about one-quarter of the fruit and vegetables there are organic. The rest include conventional vegetables, presumably grown with chemical fertilisers, as well as hydroponic and aeroponic vegetables grown in water and air respectively.

Twice I pointed out to staff that the sign was misleading, because hydroponic and aeroponic vegetables are grown in unnatural ways, using chemical solutions or sprays as fertilisers.

On my third visit, the sign had been changed to ‘Speciality Vegetables’.

I thought FairPrice had done the right thing, but closer examination revealed it had not. Beneath the sign were smaller labels classifying vegetables as ‘organic’, as well as ‘salad’, ‘mushrooms’ and ‘tomatoes’. Under the ‘organic’ section, there were still hydroponic and aeroponic vegetables.

Why not label hydroponic and aeroponic vegetables accordingly? Is it because they have no selling point, unlike ‘organic’?

Meanwhile, one brand of aeroponic vegetables, which is claimed to be air flown from Europe and packed in Singapore, is described as ‘grown naturally in air’.

Will the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) clarify whether food labelling laws allow aeroponic or hydroponic vegetables to be described as ‘natural’ or ‘grown naturally ‘?

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Zenxin organic vegetables at wholesale market

March 5, 2007

The Sunday Times reported yesterday that Zenxin Argiculture, a grower of organic vegetables based in Kluang, Johor, has set up an outlet at the Pasis Panjang vegetable wholesale centre in Singapore.

Zenxin hadd actually already been offering an online service, with free delivery for purchases above $50, for some time. With the Pasir Panjang store, hopefully prices will be a lot more affordable.

I go up to JB quite regularly and have been buying their veggies from Jusco suparmarket there. Prices, quality and product range are good. In JB suparmarkets, many organic vegetables can be bought for less than RM3 (approx S$1.30) per packet – cabbage, spinach, kangkong, chye sim, long beans, lady’s fingers, eggplant, cucumber, Japanese cucumber, cherry tomatoes, etc. Add another RM 1 or 2 and your options increase. I ever bought organic coriander for the grand sum of RM0.85!

There are altogether 3 brands of organic vegetables at Jusco supermarkets – Zenxin, ABM Greenhill and Suan Mokkh. Plus, there is Grace Cup which is compost grown.

So now, two of the brands are available here, Zenxin and Grace Cup.

From my experience, the best quality organic vegetables come from Suan Mokkh but prices are somewhat higher. A Google search tells me that Suan Mokkh is a Buddhist meditation retreat in Southern Thailand. I am not sure if the organic vegetables come from the same place, but they certainly look good and have very strong energy.

One of my friends is able to sense it by placing his hands over the vegetables and he tells me that Suan Mokkh veggies have stronger energy than Zenxin.

So do look out for these if ever you go to JB. There are Jusco supermarkets at Terbrau City, a huge shopping mall at Johor Jaya, and also at Permas Jaya and Taman University.

Or pop by the vegetable wholesale centre and look for Zenxin at Pasir Panjang. You can also find organic vegetables and fruits at:

  • Nature’s Glory at Tan Boon Liat Building at Outram
  • Brown Rice Paradise at Tanglin Mall
  • Supernature at Park House (a private residence) along Orchard Boulevard
  • various organic food stores at Fortune Centre and in HDB estates
  • supermarkets like The Marketplace, Carrefour and Fairprice.

Oh yes, Cold Storage has recently opened Naturally, an organic supermarket at Vivo City.
Anybody been there yet? Is it any good? Will drop by sometime and give my report.

But good or not, cheap or expensive, organic produce has certainly become a lot more widely available in Singapore. I remember when I first got interested in organic foods 20 years ago, there was about 1/2 an organic foods store – and nobody selling fresh organic foods and vegetables.

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Fairprice organic melons no longer great

February 12, 2007

If some of you took my recommendation and went to buy the Thailand organic musk melon from NTUC Fairprice, and found them not all that great, my apologies.

I just bought another of the melons over the weekend and it was a great disappointment.

Firstly, it was a different species of melon. The outside looks the same but inside, the flesh was orange / peach in colour, versus the light green version previously.

And this time round, the taste was absolutely FLAT! Not juicy, not sweet, not anything.

Maybe the melon I bought was not sufficiently ripe. But this would mean that it was harvested unripe, which is not a good thing. And then it was not sufficiently ripened before it was put on sale.

I am very disappointed with the lack of quality control. And I feel bad that I recommended it to so many of my friends as well as on this blog!

Perhaps this is what happens when organic foods go to the mass market. Sigh!

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NTUC Fairprice: Trans fat labelling or slogan-ing?

February 8, 2007

I don’t like being a wet blanket, but I must say I did not get overly excited when I read a while ago that NTUC Fairprice will ‘label’ some of its new housebrand products “trans fat free”.

It was funny how I came across the news, however. I found it at The Straight Times Forum, a site that encourages people to post well-written letters that got rejected by The Straits Times Forum. I was wondering who had written an unpublished letter about trans fats, when I realised it was a news story posted, at 1816 hrs, by Channel News Asia. Click here to read the full story.

I was not overly excited because

  • I knew it was going to happen sooner or later. “Trans fat free” has become a hot band wagon that supermarket chains are only too happy to jump on, once they have an opportunity.
  • Looking at the photograph posted on the CNA website, none of the NTUC Fairprice “trans fat free” items looks like I would eat them. None looked healthy – commercially produced bread, instant noodles, regular cooking oil, biscuits….

But come to think of it, I had already seen the trans fat free “label” on a bottle of NTUC Fairprice cooking oil about a week ago.

    For a while just now, I wondered if the journalist in me had missed a scoop? I could have, yet again, been the first to report the news before the MSM (main stream media) did. But I didn’t think much of the “labelling” when I saw it on the shelf the other day. I thought it was interesting that Fairprice had already jumped onto the bandwagon; I did not think it was worth shouting about

    What Fairprice has done is not so much labelling, but what I call slogan-ing.

    Let me explain the difference. Labelling is where, within the limits allowed by the law, a food manufacturer tells the facts as they are — for example, whether a product contains 0.4 grams or 0.6 grams of trans fats per serving.

    Slogan-ing is when a quality — such as “trans fat free” — is highlighted for the sake of attracting consumer attention. It is a marketing gimmick.

    Labelling is compulsory — except when the law grants an exemption, such as when products with less than 0.5 grams of trans fats are, under US trans fat labelling laws, exempted from being declared. Note, however, that Canadian trans fat labelling laws grant exemption only for products with lessthan 0.2 grams of trans fat per serving.

    But whatever the case, once labelling is legislated, then ALL products must be labelled accordingly.

    Slogan-ing, in contrast, is entirely voluntary. A manufacturer puts up a slogan only when it serves its purpose.

    Another vital difference is this: Labelling, to some extent, serves the consumer. Slogan-ing serves the manufacturer and retailer.

    Also, as I explained in my earlier post and website article about “positive labelling” (at that time I had not yet coined the term slogan-ing), a label that states “trans fat free” does not guarantee that the product is healthy.

    Instead, it could mean:

    • The product contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. And you need to pay careful attention to the serving size. Some manufacturers make their serving sizes so small that the average person would easily eat two or three or more servings at one go.
    • The product contains fully hydrogenated oils, or interesterified fat. It’s true that these contain no trans fat. But it’s not true that they do no harm. In fact, scientists are beginning to discover that interesterified fat is even more harmful than trans fat, especially in causing diabetes.
    • In the case of regular cooking oils like corn, soybean, etc, even though they contain no trans fat, they are harmful in other ways because these oils had been extracted at high temperature. The high temperature makes such oils rancid. They are full of free radicals which damage cells, accelerate aging and lead to degenerative diseases.
    • Also in the case of regular cooking oils, the “trans fat free” slogan is actually meaningless because these oils are not supposed to contain trans fats anyway. But actually they do contain very small amounts, formed during the process of deodorisation to remove the rancid smell.

    Now you see why I am not too hot about “trans fat free” slogan-ing.

    Even if it is proper labelling, I am not too hot about it. A study done recently in Australia by the NSW Food Authority found that the mandatory nutrition information that appears on all processed foods “is often inaccurate and misleading”.

    Firstly, there is a margin of error of about +/- 20 percent.

    But even allowing for this 20 per cent margin of error, as many as 84 per cent of labels incorrectly stated the quantity of at least one component.

    Now here comes the shocker… The study found that in one brand of potato chips, the amount of trans fat was 13 times higher than claimed on the label. Click here to read a Sydney Morning Herald report about the study, titled Big Fat Lie: Food labels hiding the truth.

    Even if labelling is done properly and accurately, it is well known that most consumers do not read food labels and that those who read often do not understand what they read.

    Steen Stender, the man who got Denmark to ban trans fats, has this to say about trans fat labelling: “You can put poison in food, if you label it properly. Here in Denmark, we remove the poison and people don’t have to know anything about trans fatty acids.”