Seward is well known for its diversity of people, and for a strong focus on sustainable food. A diverse population often leads to a strong market for foods that fit within different dietary restrictions. Members of our community seek out foods from a variety of categories: locally grown, gluten free, halal, kosher, vegan or organic, among others. These categories are defined by the contents of food as well as methods of preparation. Labels for such products are also regulated in different ways. Perhaps surprisingly, it is very difficult in our modern food environment to determine any specification is perfectly met. This fact puts responsibilities on every step between the field and your plate: growers, wholesalers, retailers, and consumers.
Some food label examples:
- The vegan diet excludes any product that comes from an animal. Both vegetarians and vegans have to learn to read labels closely and ask questions at restaurants that do not specify which foods qualify. For example, a vegetable soup may be made with chicken stock, or yogurt may contain animal-derived gelatin. There is no regulated food label for vegan products, but many businesses that sell prepared food in Minneapolis specify vegan and vegetarian dishes, because these diets have become so much more common. Three Seward businesses were recently featured on a prominent vegan blog Seward Café, The Donut Cooperative and Franklin Freeze, which now sells vegan ice cream.
- Kosher and Halal are certifications that religious groups use to ensure that products meet ethical and moral standards, with a focus on animal products. These labels are used by producers who follow strict procedures relating to the manner in which the animal is slaughtered and the living conditions of the animal. Jewish and Islamic religious organizations oversee and create certification processes that qualify a product as Kosher or Halal. That labeling process is then regulated by the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, which requires truthfulness of claims made on food packaging, including verification that the appropriate Kosher or Halal certification organization has been obtained.
- Organic products are produced without the use of antibiotics, hormones, genetic engineering, radiation or synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. There are three levels of “organic” products, including 100% Organic, Organic (must contain 95% organic ingredients) can have the USDA-Organic logo. Products that say “Made With Organic Ingredients” must contain 70% organic ingredients, and cannot bear the USDA-Organic logo. The USDA is the certifying agency for this label.
- Gluten-free falls under the USDA jurisdiction. While no product is actually 100% gluten free, the USDA applies the international standard for the amount of gluten that can be considered harmless. This is the same type of standard applied to other allergens such as nuts, egg, and fish. Along with Seward Café, The Donut Cooperative and Franklin Freeze, we have many neighborhood establishments which serve vegan, vegetarian, or organic meals. The Seward Co-op also offers a variety of foods including free range, vegan, a limited selection of Kosher, and gluten free staples. Juba Grocery is one of our local businesses that carries Halal products such as meat, cheese and poultry. Pizza Luce is one of the few restaurants that offer a gluten-free pizza. These local businesses cater to our expanding demand for a variety of dietary options. Regardless of your personal preference, rest assured that there will be a business in Seward that carries your desired food product.