Laurie Demeritt surveyed customers to see what they believe ‘local’ means and “found that 50% defined local as within 100 miles; 37% said within the same state.” And Julie Schmit states, “Wal-Mart considers anything local if it's grown in the same state as it's sold,” and “Whole Foods considers local to be anything produced within seven hours of one of its stores.” Together, these studies show how many consumers do not actually know what the label ‘local’ actually means. A reason for this is because there is no standard definition for the term “local” since every store defines it for themselves. This causes confusion and plays a role in how consumers are tricked by large corporations.
Even though different stores have different meanings to local, there is one definition that everyone in the United States must follow. Steve Martinez explains that, “according to the Farm Act in 2008, local must refer to food that is within 400 miles of its origin or within the state it is produced.” Even though this tangible definition exists, many people are misinformed about how local, local produce actually is. Since this set definition may not fit what most people define local produce to be, Steve Martinez explains that consumers “local food may be defined by the characteristics of intermediate stage of the supply chain such as processing and retailing”, because this will more accurately depict what consumers expect from local food.
Some consumers stray away from non-local food because they don’t want to support companies which are adding to current pollution issues. Jeremy Philipson explains that “several LCA studies report that local production can be more energy efficient than non-local production, largely because of transportation savings.”
It is harder to see how smaller corporations contribute to pollution because, “Small producers are less likely than big ones to have had food-safety audits” (Schmit). It would be easier for smaller producers to get away with pollution and other issues simply because no one is holding them accountable. It is safe however to assume that local producers do not contribute to pollution as much as larger corporations. However, small producers not having food-safety audits is a large issue. There is no regulation on how to grow crops or the conditions in which they grow them in when there are no audits. This will be a persistent issue because small producers are not willing and/or able to pay for these audits. However, the transportation step of the production cycle does not only affect the environment, but also the nutritional value of the produce.
Many people believe that produce’s nutritional value is mainly affected by the time between when the food is picked and when the food is consumed. Gareth Edwards-Jones from Cambridge claims that evidence “suggests that the nutritional quality of the fruit and vegetables is probably highest straight after harvest and then declines with time” (Edwards-Jones).However he also claims that “other factors in the food chain affect the nutritional quality of plants including handling, packaging and storage” (Edwards-Jones). Since this idea is so complex and has many variables that come into play while determining a foods nutritional value, Professor Gareth Edwards-Jones concludes, “it is not easy to justify generic claims that local food is nutritionally superior to non-local foods. The nutritional quality of the food will depend on the specific nature of the food supply chain.” Since how the food is handled has a large impact on the foods nutrition, “it would be almost impossible to develop a scientific dataset which would enable formal testing of the hypothesis that local food is better than non-local food” (Phillipson).
Frith claims “maintaining nutritional quality after fruits and vegetables are harvested requires careful handling [and]…minimal processing – cutting, slicing, chopping, peeling, etc. – while tremendously useful from a food service standpoint, causes injuries to the plant tissues and initiates enzymatic changes.” Meaning fruit that is already cut and packaged can easily lose nutrition and contain less nutrients than some foods that were picked days earlier from farther away locations.
Ankara Sihhiye from the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at Hacettepe University created a table shown below summarizing information she obtained through research. She claims, “it can be concluded that vitamin C contents of commercially frozen vegetables were affected mostly by prefreezing operations and freezing process alone did not cause an important vitamin loss” (Sihhiye). Therefore non-local foods that have gone through these “prefreezing operations” could very easily be less nutritious than local foods