By Christina Rexrode
NEW YORK (AP) – Which food revelation was more shocking last month?
Did it blow you away that low levels of a fungicide that isn’t approved in the U.S. were discovered in some orange juice sold here? Yawn. Or was it the news that Brazil, where the fungicide-laced juice originated, produces a good portion of the orange pulpy stuff we drink? Gasp!
While the former may have sent prices for orange juice for delivery in March down 5.3 percent, the latter came as a bombshell to some “Buy American” supporters. But that’s not the only surprise lurking in government data about where the food we eat comes from.
Overall, America’s insatiable desire to chomp on overseas food has been growing. About 16.8 percent of the food that we eat is imported from other countries, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, up from 11.3 percent two decades ago. Here are some other facts:
Better communication (thank you, Internet) and transportation (thank you, faster planes) play a role in all the food importing. And in many cases, it’s just become much cheaper to pay for shipping food from distant countries, where wages are often lower and expensive environmental rules often laxer than in the U.S.
Our expanding population – and bellies – also has made feeding people cheaply more important. The U.S. has about 309 million residents, as of the 2010 U.S. Census. In 1990, that number was about 249 million.
There’s also a shift in our food psychology. New Americans – those who have immigrated from Latin America and other countries – want the foods that they enjoyed back home. Not to mention that Americans in general have come to expect that they should be able to buy blueberries, spinach and other things even when they’re not in season in the U.S.1 2 next >>