The Hidden Cost Of Cheap Food

The Hidden Cost Of Cheap Food
Low-cost supermarket food looks especially tempting in times of austerity, but food that comes cheap in a first-world economy may well mean that someone’s working in harsh conditions elsewhere.

Student Stacey reports at the BBC News site about an experiment where she worked in a selection of Asian food production facilities, helping to prepare food that would ultimately be shipped halfway across the globe and often sold at bargain prices. While the methods used are hygenic and the staff are technically paid minimum wage, she was still appalled by how little food workers are expected to live in and how much back-breaking effort is involved:

I was hit by the heat, then the smell, closely followed by the long tedious hours . . . The more and more I discovered about the food industry the more I wanted to share my experiences as widely as possible when I got home to the UK. Why don’t people speak about these workers? Why has the fashion industry had such a spotlight on it, but not this?

The situation is arguably more extreme in the UK than in Australia, since a much larger percentage of food has to be imported in the first place. But with that said, you can bet that the cheapest tins of tuna and packages of rice (two of the staples discussed in the article) in your local supermarket are also sourced from overseas. As several commenters on the BBC article point out, there’s no simple solution to the issue, but it’s something to consider next time you’re filling your trolley.

The far-away food factories [BBC News Magazine]


  • Sunrice used to be all grown in Australia. Not so any longer. It depends on the size you buy.

    If you can, buy the 25kg sacks of Long Grain Sunrice (Australia), not the 10kg sacks (Thailand).

  • The fallout effects of the financial crisis are unfortunately not just limited to appalling working conditions for people in the poorer countries. Many are stuggling to access food itself. Read more online in Caritas Australia’s ‘Food: the Fundmental Right’ and find out how you can take action.

  • 300 cheers for raising a pertinent and important issue!! One wonders how the production of electronic gadgets and computer equipment (not to mention all their materials) involves similar exploitation.

  • Sure, I do like to support the Australian made industry, or an industry where the workers are paid better wages, but like all things, how can you be sure when you are at the supermarket?

    Say LABEL A – China, poor conditions.

    LABEL B – Canada ingredients, packed in China?

    Also who is to say tat paying more is actually helping workers more? Can’t be too sure, so that is the real problem.

  • Its not only food, technology etc..its it with everything..(even with babies..).

    The thing is, those people who you are living in harsh conditions need money and this is an avenue for them.

    I dont see the point of boycotting…basically then you taking away money from the people who need it most.

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