By Laura Dobson, Master Gardener, Local Food Advocate and Guest Writer
If I searched my mother’s herb-and-spice cabinet, I’d find dated McCormick tins, their red, white and blue labels giving them away. My mom probably uses what’s in those tins despite Kennedy-era expiration dates. In fact, last year’s Christmas dinner probably included some. Despite my concern with eating quality, local, organic food, I’ve stayed out of my mom’s kitchen supplies.
Not anymore …it’s time for her to replace the old seasonings. McCormick & Co. is making it easier to eat my way. The company recently announced that the majority of its herbs and spices will be organic and non-GMO by 2016. Not only can mom appeal to my food ethic … if I’m not growing an herb, I can now run to the corner store for, say, oregano. In the past I’d have traipsed 25 miles to the nearest Whole Foods or other organic store.
As a staunch supporter of GMO labeling (and signer of every petition to mandate it), I appreciate McCormick’s new labeling. Certainly many of their products are already non-GMO, but this new labeling standard will tell foodies what to expect. For example, vanilla extract has been among the non-GMO products; it is now labeled as such. Another little-known, but important, tidbit is that McCormick products are never irradiated; something lower-end products are likely to experience.
Food irradiation is to food what pasteurization is to dairy products: it can improve the safety and extend the shelf life of foods by reducing or eliminating microorganisms and insects. However, irradiation can damage the quality of the food and no one has yet proven that a long-term diet of irradiated foods is safe for humans. This makes me as happy as the organic and GMO-free announcement.
So, if you don’t grow it, should you replace your current herb stash? As a purist, I’d say it’s a healthy move. Why eat something that was sprayed with pesticides or genetically modified to resist Round-Up?! Maybe I can finally convince my mother that it’s time to put those tin cans on display as antiques and purchase fresh new jars for her herb cabinet.