July 2 Minefields of ethical consumption

July 2 Minefields of ethical consumption

SINGAPORE - When I became a mother, I started doing something I never imagined myself doing - scanning product labels on supermarket shelves.

This retreat into the embrace of Mother Nature began with those cute and colourful jars of baby food. I would scan the ingredient list for zero per cent salt, sugar and additives. They all claimed to be 100 per cent natural, but I decided to study the fine print to be sure.

I was also drawn to gut-warming phrases like "fortified with iron, calcium and B-vitamins" in baby cereals, although I would later find out that such supplementation was code for capitalist technological engineering - healthy fibre had been taken out of whole grains to make them less perishable, and if some vitamins were lost, no sweat, they were put back in the form of chemical letters and numbers.

Then I hit a snag.

The organic and more expensive brands I bought were not stocked as fast on supermarket shelves, and I had a chubby six-month-old who mowed down rice cereal twice a day. Since his infant-care centre was feeding him a cheaper-brand, fortified cereal anyway, I succumbed and bought the same for home.

This tussle between wading through a maze of research and the desire to just switch off the brain and shop similarly confronts me over palm oil.

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