Where Does Your Food Come From?

(CBS/John Filo)
Nancy Cordes is the Transportation and Consumer Safety Correspondent for CBS News.
Walking through the supermarket shouldn't have to feel like a game of Clue. But that's just the way a lot of shoppers feel these days in the wake of some food scares from China. They'd like to know more about where that plum or strawberry or slab of beef comes from, but there's no way to tell.

Seafood is the only food product currently required by law to display a label declaring its country of origin. Sometimes states and countries that are proud of their produce will place stickers on fruits and vegetables -- "Grown in Washington," "Product of Chile" -- but they don't have to. So even shoppers with great intentions can get stumped.

Here are some tips from the Center for Food Safety, the USDA and Wegmans grocery stores on how to discern where the food in the produce aisle is from.

-- If it's winter, those berries are probably NOT grown in the US. They were grown south of the Equator, most likely in Chile.
-- Almost all greens not locally grown are from California. Few come from overseas.
-- Bananas are grown in Central or South America -- mostly Costa Rica and Ecuador.
-- Only 4 percent of all imported fruit comes from China and less tha 2.5% of imported vegetables. Nearly two thirds of our imported vegetables come from Mexico.
-- Pennsylvania is the state of the mushroom.
-- Produce that has been washed, chopped and bagged or packaged isn't necessarily safer. It's gone through an extra processing stage, which mean one additional step where it could have been exposed to contamination.
-- Apples not grown in the US are most likely grown in Chile or New Zealand.
-- If your orange does not have a sticker, it could be from Florida, it could be from South Africa or it might be from Brazil.

Still have questions about a particular produce item? Ask to see the store's produce manager. He or she should know where each type of fruit or vegetable was shipped in from -- because even if there's no label, the origin was probably stamped on the boxes. Happy shopping!

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    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.

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