'Buy local' food programs deceive consumers and are rarely enforced, a USA TODAY Network investigation finds
In just one example, peanuts are trucked into Oklahoma. But that doesn't stop a peanut butter manufacturer from getting a "Made in Oklahoma" brand. Here's why.
Robert Anglen, The Arizona Republic
Mar 13, 2018
As local-food sales grow into a $20 billion industry, a USA TODAY Network investigation found that state-branding programs designed to inform consumers and support local farmers are deceptive and virtually unregulated.
These "buy local" programs purport to connect shoppers with food from their states by affixing logos and stickers.
Yet most state food-branding programs certify products as "local" even if half the ingredients come from another state or country. Many states have no minimum ingredient requirement.
Think of it like this: Coffee beans don't grow in Utah. They must be imported. "But if you roast the beans here, you're qualified for the program," said Wayne Bradshaw, marketing and economic development division director for the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, which runs the Utah's Own program.
The same is true for tea brewed in Alabama, peanut butter processed in Oklahoma and potato chips cooked and bagged in Virginia. The main ingredient can come from around the world or across the country.
Over the past four months, USA TODAY Network reporters reviewed food-branding programs in the 45 states that have them. They analyzed rules, enforcement actions, and the criteria each state requires to be considered local.