12:11 03 November 2009
High street food chain Pret a Manger has come under fire for their fresh food.
The packaging of the 'Just Made' chicken sandwich boasts it was made from "the best natural stuff you'd want to use at home"; the reality however, is that the filling uses frozen chicken that was shipped from over 6,000 miles away in Brazil.
The food retailer, who has built a reputation on good natural food, earning £8.6m last year in chicken products alone, has defended the decision saying that it uses meat from South America as the chickens are treated better there. The 'Just Made' label signifies that the sandwiches never come from a factory but are made in a Pret kitchen.
The revelation comes only a week after it emerged that the chain's "spankingly sushi" was in fact frozen seafood shipped from Chile and Vietnam.
Pret has now updated its website to state where its products come from and has pledged to use only free-range British chicken by 2012.
But what about the rest of your food? Exactly how fresh is it? Here we demystify misleading labels:
Poultry and meat:
Chicken used in sandwiches, ready meals and pies are likely to have been processed or frozen before being shipped here. In 2008 Britain shipped in 143,000 tons of cheap chicken, the equivalent of 60million birds from Brazil and Thailand alone.
Britain ships in pork from Denmark and eastern Europe, where animal welfare standards are lower. Foods such as pies often labelled to say "Produced in the UK" often use meat from these regions, making pork a major import from the EU.
The EU takes on half of New Zealand's lamb exports, with Britain buying the most of all. The meat travels thousands of miles before reaching our plates, despite plentiful supplies here in the UK.
Our supermarkets now proudly stock accurately labelled British beef to encourage home-grown food. However, meats in ready meals and other processed foods could have come from further afield.
Even the seafood caught in home waters is sent abroad for processing before returning to our shores. Prawns caught in Scotland are sent to China to be de-shelled before returning home, Welsh cockles travel to the land of the windmills in Holland to be processed and haddock takes a trip to Poland.
However, most of the fish eaten in Britain comes from foreign waters about 70%. The Pacific and Indian oceans provide most of our tuna, which is processed in Thailand before making its way to Britain via shipment containers.
Fruit and veg:
Most of our fruit and veg has accumulated many food miles. We have become accustomed to having almost every type of fruit and veg available all the time, despite being out of natural season. Therefore, it is freighted in.
Even the health conscious people buying organic food are likely to be eating foods from abroad as demand exceeds supply.
South Africa supplies most of the carrots we eat, and Zimbabwe, Zambia and Kenya are the likely sources of our green beans. Two thirds of tomatoes are imported; 30 million alone come from China.
Approximately 350,000 tons of potatoes are imported each year, with many of these having been in storage for up to six months.
However, it's not all bad news. The Food Standards Agency has said that some processed vegetables are actually better for you. Broccoli for example, has more nutritional value bought from frozen than the fresh variety.
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