Join my community!

Get a monthly newsletter, a monthly elixir and evidence-based nutrition information!




Anti-Bacterials Might Be Killing More Than Just Bacteria
April 5, 2016
Why Science Often Draws Conflicting Results
June 6, 2016
Show all

April 25, 2016

Food For Thought
54

President’s Choice “Wild Blueberries” Are Not Wild

My wife and I love berries. We love them because they taste great, but also because they pack a nutritional punch. When they are in season, we gobble them up like it’s the first and last time we’ll see them. With the beauty of modern technology, we are able to prolong the berry season, and stock our freezer up with the delights throughout the year. As such, we often purchase wild frozen blueberries, as wild blueberries are much more nutritious than their counterparts. They boast up to 2x more antioxidants.

I was chatting with my wife the other day, talking about nutrition, as we often do, and I couldn’t help but bring up something that had been irking me for a while.

I always noticed that the wild blueberries that are for sale in the grocery store aren’t at all like the wild blueberries that we enjoy in the summer from the Farmer’s market.

If you’ve ever bought them, you’ll have noticed that they are much larger, and don’t taste as sweet. Though they are obviously different than what you get fresh and wild when in season, I couldn’t help but think that many consumers may be mislead by the packaging.

As I always like to get to the source- whether it’s a symptom of the body, a study, or a food producer. And so I contacted Loblaws, the producer of the President’s Choice “Wild Blueberries” about their “wildness”.

Loblaws/ President’s Choice Rep Spills the Juice on Wild Blueberries

Our email correspondence.

Josh:

I frequently notice the PC Wild Blueberries in your stores, and just had a couple of questions about them. Do the producers use any sort of chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc) on the blueberries or the land on which they grow them?

Where are they grown?

Thanks!

—————————

Loblaws Representative:

Dear Mr. Gitalis, 

Thank you for taking the time to contact us. Blueberry bush is a wild variety species that is farmed. The only time we can guarantee free from pesticide use is with our PC Organics line.

Blueberry bush is a wild variety species that is farmed.
– Loblaws Representative

—————————

Josh:

Your response is much appreciated. I still have a few questions. So these wild blueberries below are only wild in the sense that they are a “wild” variety. But they are grown conventionally with chemicals in a farm setting?

And these below are chemical free, but still grown in a farm setting and not wild?

—————————

Loblaws Representative:

Yes, you would be correct about both your statements.

And there it is.  I responded again, suggesting they may wish to consider more clarification, or what might also be interpreted as truth, in their labelling. I pointed out that every plant they currently package and sell was at one time wild, and that the labelling of a conventionally farmed product as wild, was very misleading to the consumer and “wild” usually implies grown in the wild and thereby free of direct application of manmade chemicals.

The public relations rep responded by letting me know they would pass along my feedback. When I inquired about being kept in the loop they let me know that they “follow all requirements set out by the CFIA in regards to their labelling laws” and that at this point the decison to change it would be “purely a business decision as to how they would like to proceed with this matter. We will not be able to share any reasoning as to why the label will stay the way it is or whether it will be changed”.

In other words, they’re not going to be changing any labels because they’re following the rules set by government regulations who allow food corporations to use marketing claims and names positioned as health claims that consistently deceive the public.

What Can We Learn From This?

My disenchantment and subsequent education about the questionable intentions food industry and their deceiving marketing began many years ago. I try to get as much food as I can from farmers, and the rest, I am super-vigilant about the source. However, every once in a while something gets past my radar. This was one of those times.

You might be thinking, what’s the big deal about eating conventional blueberries instead of wild?

My question to you would be, which of the two would be more nutritious? The blueberries that have to fend for themselves from pests, other plants, the sun, wind, animals, and fungus? Or blueberries that have of those things controlled for?

If we want to be in control of our health, we need to be in control of our food. If we give up responsibility of our food to larger companies, we give up control of our health.

If we want to be in control of our health, we need to be in control of our food.

If we want change, we need to share our thoughts with these companies. I encourage you to contact the producer of these “wild blueberries” and share this article with your circles. Change in the food movement comes when consumers demand it. It comes from us, not the regulators.

It takes a movement to influence big food.

Update (January 10th, 2017): One Person can Make a Difference

After I posted this blog, there was quite the response. There were people thanking me for the post, and others defending Loblaws and President’s Choice for their packaging standards.

One comment that really stuck out for me was the following (you can see it below in the comments section):

Suzy: Great article! I actually work for Fortinos (a Loblaws chain) and I can confirm the packaging IS changing on the PC organic wild blueberries (removing the word ‘wild’) within the next month. So the squeaky wheel does get the grease so to speak! Just thought I’d share.

Well, I didn’t fully believe it at the time, but seeing is believing.

Highbush Blueberries

Photo Credit: Katherine Mossop, taken at a Loblaws in Toronto.

I must hand it to the Loblaws/Presidents Choice rep. It appears he did pass along my message, and even better, someone listened and initiated the change.

Although they didn’t outright admit that they were misleading customers with the original labelling (intentionally or unintentionally), I take the change as an admission that they realized they were wrong, and wanted to make it right. I respect that.