Australia's food fight
Are supermarkets dumping their inferior fruit and vegetable products by selling them in working class areas?
We know that in some grocery prices can change by postcode, but now it's been revealed that goods that are up to two years old are hitting the shelves of poorer suburbs.
Depending on where you shop and where you live, how much difference is there in the appearance, age, quality, texture, taste and price of fruit and veggies?
Lawyer and former food Inspector Des Sibraa says working class suburbs end up with inferior, imported produce.
“The poorer suburbs get (inferior produce) because they're cheaper. The imported products are grown overseas under conditions that you don’t know about. The testing at the wharfs is practically non-existent, so they're using all sorts of pesticides and germicides that are not permitted in Australia,” Sibraa said.
The supermarkets boldly spruik everyday freshness and savings wherever you shop. But when we sent our undercover producer to test their promises, in sixteen supermarkets, including Coles, Woolies, IGA and Aldi, what they delivered was too often the opposite.
Tests were conducted on 1,500 pieces of fruit and vegetables, and the results were staggering. The freshness of fruits and veggies varied greatly - apples were up to five months old; grapes - three to four months old; tomatoes – from one week to one month; lettuce from three days to two weeks; and carrots - one week to four months old.
Overall, the worst produce we tested, except for grapes, came from lower income areas of Brisbane and Melbourne, scoring under 50 per cent for quality. The best quality, scoring 80 per cent to 90 per cent was found in the wealthier suburbs, mostly from independent grocers.
We've found old and new produce mixed in together, as well as imported mixed in with local in lower income areas.
“When they get a batch that's going off and on their last legs, they mix it with some that are not quite so bad, so that you often get things like core rot and things like that mixed in,” SIbraa said. “‘Imported’ and ‘local’ doesn’t mean anything, what the regulations require is that you put the country of origin.”
New South Wales Chamber of Fruit and Vegetable Industries CEO Colin Gray stands by the supermarkets’ claims that produce is the same quality, no matter what the postcode.
“Some people happen to have a certain budget and they'll buy to that budget,” he said. “The important thing is that there is good quality fruit and vegetables available to suit every budget.”