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Between Shelf and Reality: The Role of Supermarkets in Our Diet

Whenever I wander the aisles of my local supermarket, I am always amazed at the evolution of our food offerings. I walk past countless shelves filled with products labeled as 'food', convinced that this designation is too great a compliment even in times of need. Unless food is simply understood as 'anything that is potentially edible'.

When you ask Chat-GPT to define a food product, the answer is: "Food, also known as a food or foodstuff, includes any substance consumed to provide the body with the necessary nutrients. These substances are crucial for growth, energy supply, and the maintenance and recovery of the body."

But when I look at the contents of some supermarket shelves, with their jars of canned vegetables, various types of sausages, pre-packaged meals, and sugar-laden breakfast cereals, the reality seems far removed from the ideal definition of food. This is in addition to the preservatives and additives that have been proven to have negative effects on our health.

I think there is something very wrong here because when I go looking for food in an unknown supermarket, I really have to use all my Sherlock Holmes skills to succeed.  

The Upside Down World In Food Labels

When I get to my favorite department, which has eggs, among other things, I also notice something special. Between the regular eggs, the white-range eggs, the fresh free-range eggs, and the organic eggs, there are also free-range organic eggs. But I can't find out which one is really the best purchase for the chicken itself.

A little research shows that free-range organic eggs give the animals the most freedom of movement, but says nothing about the food and transport of these sweet animals.


Who or what has ensured that you have to say if you are ecological, organic, and animal friendly, and if not, that you don't have to tell anything? Wouldn't it make much more sense if nutritious food, animal-friendly produced food and ecologically grown food did not have to communicate anything and the rest were obliged to tell how the food was grown and the animal lived?

For example, you would see a huge label on the eggs with the text: “The chicken that laid these eggs had a living space of approximately 2 A4 pages.” You immediately know what you are buying.

If you then buy a piece of pork, you can read, for example: “The pig responsible for producing this meat had access to a living space of one square meter.” Enjoy your meal!

In the Ideal World, I Only Eat Organic and Nutritious Food

I am blessed with a sulfite intolerance. Sulfite is the substance that is used like sodium nitrite to keep food nice in color and longer lasting. But it is also in wine, shellfish, and all several vegetable products. I'll spare you the details if I eat it (too much), it does itchy stuff.

The advantage is that I am almost forced to eat everything fresh. But 'Fresh' does not yet say how the vegetable was grown, the animal lived and the meat was processed. Now you can reason that everything that is organic and animal-friendly is stated on the packaging, but I think that is wrong.

The law does not require you to state that something contains sulfite, but they even put it in the chicken at ALDI. I have never had any research done into this, but the two times I ate chicken from Aldi, I was left with two scraping spoons to wage a nightly battle against the itch and as always the itch won.

Why don't we oblige suppliers who do not treat animals well or, for example, use pesticides when growing their fruit and vegetables to mention this on the end product? With cow letters please, because without glasses I see less and less lately. If there is still room for advertising how good it tastes, that's fine with me. Just keep that nice and small.

Most Products in a Supermarket Have Too Little Nutritional Value and Are Bad for You

I have never been a 'bad' eater. I love my vegetables, only eat a piece of meat occasionally and I'm not a big snacker either. But when I look at what is in an average shopping cart, I am sometimes quite shocked. So not just only by the size of the person pushing the cart, but the type of products.

Four bags of chips. But nowhere does the packaging state that it contains a lot of useless calories, is full of saturated fats and trans fats, often has an extremely high salt content, may contain acrylamide which is carcinogenic, and is full of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. That has nothing to do with nutrition anymore.

Under the chips are 8 cans of frankfurters, supplemented with 2 bags of white soft rolls. It is well known that those sandwiches have no nutritional value whatsoever, but those frankfurters! They have very little nutritional value in terms of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, but are also full of saturated fats, far too much salt, and of course the necessary preservatives.

Of course, to properly fill the shopping cart, you also need 8 bottles of soft drinks, because soft drinks are really healthy! No nutritional value at all, but an extremely high amount of sugar added.

Not to mention the gingerbread. Of course the ones with a sugared edge, and then you need the kilo-banger burgers. It doesn't even look like meat anymore!

Four packs of roast beef, the meat of which no one has ever seen can be that color! Weird, how could that happen? Three bags of ham. There too, the question is how ham can be and remain so beautifully white in color and of course the necessary luncheon meat. The children like that so much. It really has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with meat, and does not deserve to be called meat products. It's just a chemical decoction of something that was once meat. The rest is food-less unhealthy junk that you put into your body and your children.

Suddenly I understand everything when the child of the person pushing the shopping cart arrives with a bag of candy. She must have been about 8 years old, but if you weigh about 60 kilos at that age, age is difficult to estimate. She deftly took the small bag of lettuce from the shopping cart to make room for the bag of sweets and then placed the lettuce back on top.

I saw her look out of the corner of her eye, hoping that her action would cause that bag of vegetables to fall off the cart, but alas. It was the mother's turn and was the first to put the vegetables on the conveyor belt. When paying, the woman was shocked by the amount and was just 75 cents short. In a panic, she checked all her pockets, but she hurriedly gave up the search due to the long line behind her and said: "Well, leave this bag of vegetables, it will come next time."  

It's Time for Supermarkets to Take Responsibility

Maybe you can't blame people. Of course, all the information about food is available, but if it doesn't interest you or you really don't know any better, I understand that you eat what you like. Your taste adapts and after a while fresh and organic food no longer tastes so good. Then you miss all the additions.

I remember the first time I ate chicken a few decades ago from a chicken that had been free-ranging and living a normal life until that afternoon. The bones were a bit dark in color and the meat also looked and tasted different. I thought it might be spoiled, but my Hungarian father-in-law, who had lovingly cared for the sweet animal for 7 years, assured me that this is what a chicken leg should look like.

But if the consumer does not know, is indifferent and the government is too busy imposing regulations that will damage their tax potspect, Isn't it time for the supermarkets to take responsibility?

The representatives of one of the largest supermarkets in the Netherlands said a few years ago: “We adapt to the needs of the consumer.” Yes, nice and easy! As an entrepreneur and company, you also have an exemplary role in society. You can also take the lead. Especially when you are as big as they are and can force suppliers to mention how an animal lived and what harmful effects the product can have. We also do the same with cigarettes and if a healthy cigarette is ever invented, they will not have to communicate anything. So logical, right?

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