Mislabeling Local

Written by Kathleen Merrigan, GW Food Institute Director

There has been some good competition, but this is one of the worst labeling offenses I’ve ever seen on the “Buy Local” front.  While shopping at a Washington DC Safeway grocery store last week, I came across this “Pick me, I’m Local” sign.  


Where do I begin?  Below the heading, bananas are advertised. In the three bins below the sign, there are lemons and lime (garlic can be grown locally, although the vast majority of domestically produced garlic comes from California; China is the biggest producer globally).  Even the most uninformed shopper must wonder where these foods are grown — certainly not anywhere in Metro DC or in the northeast.  If I hadn’t complained to the store management before on previous shopping trips, I would spare Safeway the embarrassment of being named since this retailer is not the only offender.

Growing the local/regional food movement is important. Currently, the domestic local food sector is estimated to be greater than $12 billion in annual sales.  USDA is working to promote local food systems as a strategy to help beginning farmers, promote rural development and community health, and ignite food entrepreneurship.  Check out the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food website and the interactive Compass geospatial map here.  See what USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service offers for your research here and check out the USDA Economic Research Service website on local food.  

To borrow the Department of Homeland Security slogan, if you see something, say something.  Join me in calling out retailers who mislabel food and cheer those who respond to consumer interest by giving locally produced items prominent placement and accurate signage.