Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Listen to the Moms

As a mom it’s easy to feel invisible. We often go from having a personal identity to being so-and-so’s mom – the one who magically picks up the house, changes the diapers, makes sure the kids are fed, healthy, and consistently transported from school, playdates, or sports activities without a hitch - with little fanfare.

But moms make hugely important decisions about the health and well-being of their entire families – and the planet - each and every day. The food we buy, the products we bring into our home, how we transport our families, and the values we live by all have an impact on our children’s health and on the larger environment. When moms start demanding safer, less toxic, and more natural products, it’s powerful. So powerful that the market is listening – sort of.

Take, for example, the recent study by the Pew Charitable Trusts about moms and their concern over antibiotic use in animals. According to the study, 80 percent of the moms surveyed were "concerned about antibiotics being given to food animals on farms", with more than 40% being very concerned. Fears about antibiotic-resistant disease and concerns over the humane treatment of animals is growing, and not just among moms. More and more individuals are starting their own food revolutions (thanks, in part, to Jamie Oliver) and are demanding to know what is in their products and where their food comes from.

As moms take action, we are insisting that our supermarkets offer greater transparency, better labeling, and a wider range of options that address our growing concerns. More moms are reading labels and making purchasing decisions that align with their values. USDA Certified Organic meat is not raised with antibiotics, but meat that is labeled "natural" or "all-natural" may or may not include antibiotic use, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. "No antibiotics added" and "Raised without antibiotics" are approved by the USDA as a claim, but are not third-party certified as the USDA Certified Organic label is. Free-range/free roaming appeals to moms concerned about the humane treatment of animals but suggests nothing about antibiotic use.

While companies are getting on the bandwagon to be responsive to the concerns of parents, the lack of regulation and consistency is something to be concerned about. The 2008 Tyson incident is good example. During 2007/2008 Tyson was using the label "raised without antibiotics" on its chicken and in its marketing to capitalize on food that was perceived to be "better for your family." Problem was that Tyson was still using "the chicken feed additive ionophores", according to the Washington Post, which the USDA considers antibiotics but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not. The USDA rescinded Tyson's use of the label, but the opportunities for companies to continue to mislead consumers remains.

Moms can drive change in the market by raising not only their level of awareness about industry practices, but by seeking out positive change through their purchasing decisions. Supporting companies that mesh with your personal values with regard to product ingredients and safety is an important way to be sure your voice is heard!

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