Thursday, October 2, 2008

Distributed By...What Does It Mean For U.S. Food Products??

Have you noticed on more and more products you buy at the grocery store and department stores now say "distributed by" instead of "made in"?

I've noticed that more and more on products I buy lately particular store brands of potato chips, cheese crackers, and chewing gum.

Case in point...potato chips. Target has a well known store brand known as "Market Pantry" for some food products and Archer Farms as another one.

On a recent browse in the local (and sometimes friendly) Target, I stumbled upon a 12 ounce bag of plain ruffled potato chips under the Market Pantry brand. Curious that I am in the wake of food scares from China I checked the packaging for some clue of where the product is actually made.

No dice.

The potato chips proclaimed they were distributed by Target stores but that's all the packaging wrote.

Not to be dismayed, I called the store customer care center when I got home to ask about their product and where it was manufactured.

A friendly representative (let's call him Adam) answered the phone and told me Target's policy was they couldn't disclose where some actual food products are manufactured because they didn’t know. He also said that some particular food products are branded with the Target name but produced in locations not known to him or his customer service area.

He told me he felt the questionable potato chips, cheese crackers, and frozen chicken tenders were made in the United States but he couldn't be for sure because the products do not show the country of origin in his information kept on products at his desk.

I thanked him and then thought better of this questioning why stores can't or won't know where products are manufactured when a consumer line states to call for additional product information.

I went to and penned a friendly email asking this same question again.

Here's what I wrote:

"I recently called your guest relations number, 1-800-316-6151 inquiring on your store brand Market Pantry cheese crackers and potato chips.

A nice representative by the name of “Adam” took my phone call but told me as of right now he couldn’t tell me where the actual product was manufactured. I’m concerned about food products made in China and sent to the United States being less than safe to consume.

The reason for this email is a concern of the products offered for sale by Target. It seems a company as large as your company is in the United States that you’d be able to know where certain food products are manufactured, especially when the packaging only states as distributed by Target Corporation but does not have anything on the package to state where it was manufactured.

Would anyone else in your company be able to know or tell where this product was actually manufactured? In my viewpoint, it would be an advantage to tell that on the label instead of stating your company distributes the product. Otherwise I’d by Lance crackers and skip your store brand because I know for sure from that company customer service they are manufactured in Charlotte, North Carolina. Likewise I'd purchase Lays (nobody can just eat one) chips because I know for 100% certainty they are a product of U.S. origins.

Thank you for your time and any information you can share on this question of product origin."

I received a reply by email when I came home thanking me sincerely for inquiring about Target food products. The letter said (paraphrasing here) Target continually values the relationship between supplier and company and both work to continually make process improvements for food safety, production, and distribution in guidelines with product safety. The form email thanked me for contacting Target and said they "hope to see me again soon at my local Target store."

I didn't really get an answer I wanted from the website so I replied back to the person who personally emailed me and said thank you for the reply but I didn't obtain the answer I was looking for posed in the original email.

So far I haven't received any answer.

Oh and the cheese crackers and potato chips, they taste as good as the major brands but we still don't know where they are manufactured.

I suggested to several companies I called recently to bring back the "Made in U.S.A." symbol on packaging after the recent Cadbury candy and tainted baby milk issues of recent from food products made in China.

Heck just look at lead based paints in children's toys, the past pet food deaths caused by China, and other things tainted like Aqua dots made in china with a date rape drug inside them?

You can Google and see the recalls and the simply amazing unhealthy stuff showing up over here from China.

This Just makes me shake my head at the Chinese government apparently showing very little regard for human life and our own Food and Drug Administration allowing bad food products from China onto our grocery store shelves and frozen food departments.

Been to Dollar Tree lately? They have frozen food in some stores. Made from where? China of course. And it's $1.00 per bag as people pile in lots of it in their shopping carts.

Can you say Wild Caught but product of China?

I don't mean to infer blinding patriotism but it appears in my view that China is doing too much to sell products and has little regard for human (or baby) life both in products and food items.

Man, let's return to products made, produced, marketed, and sold in the United States sometime.

Or at least the U.S. and Canada which I can almost bet has a better track record of food safety standards.

I don't think we will be able to return to all products made in the U.S. any time soon but doing so would give me comfort to think we could.

Have a great week!!

I would think a selling point would be to share the product is made here instead of putting what company distributes the food product.

Just my two cents. I'm outta the sandbox and/or off the soapbox.


Steve said...

Agree 100%. Seems like willful obfustication on the part of Target, which makes it likely that it *is* made in China.

We are returning our products to Target and I hope others wioll do the same. Plumeting sales might get them to rethink.

Bob said...

I've wondered about this topic for a while now too. I picked up a can of cat treats marked "Distributed by Del Monte Pet Products" and called the phone number on the label. The lady who answered said that currently, at least as far as food is concerned, if it says "distributed by" then you can assume it's made in the USA. Any food product that is imported must be marked with the country of origin. I'm not sure if this applies to non-food items.

Anonymous said...

Thats a load of horse**** My aunt recently bought market Pantry apple cider, says distributed by target and under the date code is "conc from China". I used to like Target but despise walmart. Now target sucks just as much.

Anonymous said...

Following the toothpaste scare, Aquafresh was sold "Made in the USA". Now the scare is over Aquafresh Toothpaste (and others)are back to "Distributed By" (Made in China - once more).............

Anonymous said...

I am seriously wondering the same thing about almost every food product that I buy these days. It seems that the only products REQUIRED to disclose where it's made is PRODUCE, at least it will display a sticker for country of origin. Well known USA companies such as Ragu or Kellog's - do not say MADE IN.. ony DISTRIBUTED by...

This is very UPSETTING - I agree with everything in your post 110%

K Hess said...

I just ran across your article about the words "distributed by" Walmart now ahs that on just about every food item.. Since know most of it was China before it has me wondering now if they are just trying to cover it up...why isnt our government stepping in to stop these deceiving practices?

J. Troy Young said...

I just found your blog post while trying to Google up some answers to the very same question. I agree with you 100% and would encourage everyone to research it's origins before buying any product.

D said...

I don't buy products anymore that say "distributed by". It often limits what I eat or where I shop, but I don't know what else we can do. We can write to our Senators, but they seem to be in everyone but the constituents' pockets. I think we would get a form letter back similar to the one Target sent - "we seek to ensure the utmost safety of our food supply, blah, blah, blah. . .."

Anonymous said...

I also have been wondering about this "distributed by" on so many products in many stores. (not just Target). I was going to challange my community to one month of buying nothing but USA products but because of this labeling my challenge has become almost impossible. We all need to join together to see what can be done about this labeling practice,

Anonymous said...

Hi there - I just came across your blog after calling Target to ask where their nasty tasting Market Pantry vanilla wafers are made. Same answer as other posters: If it says "distributed by Target" then it's made in USA, unless otherwise noted. I noticed recently that cookies sold in a local drug store chain are made in China, so I wondered about Target. Why can't they just say "Made in USA" on package? Something's up.

Anonymous said...

I also have the exact same concern. It seems like neary everything is now "distributed by" versus Product of or made by. I recently emailed Fresh and Easy to ask the exact same question on some products in their store. They never even bothered to response. I now try to only buy items that say Made in USA but it certainly seems like it is harder and harder to find these products. Nestle, General Mills - all the big "US" products, seem to all manufacture their products overseas. It seems very sneaky and unethical that they are not required to label where the products are made.

Anonymous said...

So I emailed the FDA - the response is below. If I understand the response correctly, if the ingredients are IMPORTED but "finished" in the US, the label does not reflect this? How frightening. Whatever happened to the our rights to know what we are eating and where it is coming from.

The regulations allow a firm to state either distributed by, manufactured by or for, or produced by. Currently the FDA does not have the authority to require country of origin labeling (COOL). Under Customs and Boarder Protection if a finished product is made outside of the U.S. it must show COOL. There are also some requirements under USDA. If ingredients are imported and used in a finished product made in the U.S. the label does not have to show the country of origin for the ingredients. The finished product manufacturer is responsible for the safety of the products they distribute in the U.S.

Consumer Affairs Specialist #3
Communication and Coordination Branch
Division of Education and Communication
Office of Food Defense, Communication,
Education and Response
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition

Anonymous said...

Some multi-national companies have US divisions where presumably some of their products are produced. Nestle's is a Swiss company with a US division. If safety is the main concern then at least Nestle's products that are distributed in the US are also manufactured in the US. Their labels say "Distributed by US Division". I too try to buy US made products but each shopping trip is a challenge. Some of the discount chains carry more "imported" products than full price stores and it's worth it to me to spend the extra money that is sometimes costs.

Anonymous said...

Some multinational companies like Nestle's have US division and their products are labeled as "Distributed by US Division". Also some of the discount stores do seem to "import" more items than full priced stores. It's worth the sometimes higher cost to buy from the full priced stores. If enough people do this it should get the attention of our legislators.

Documenting Fresh said...

I have asked the same question. It's kinda annoying really when I am shopping, read a label and it gives me no clue about where the item that I hope to put into my body comes from.

I do have an issue with knowing that in some countries the standards of environmental and food safety are sub-par, yet, they import our food and components.

I know that things aren't perfect here in the United States, but I do know that the environmental safety issues of many places in the world are common place, but rare here.

I appreciate other countries but when it comes to my health and putting something in my body I want to know that some beat-down factory 4,000 miles away isn't the source of my food.

I have stopped eating edamame (soybeans) because they are all imported from China. Also fish is another issue. How can they get away with calling something "Wild Caught" when the fish is raised in some murky source of water in a region in which the fish doesn't naturally live in?

It's pretty insulting when you read some of these packages. It's like they think none of us care.

Anonymous said...

I guess the big corporations have found a loophole in the labeling laws. A lot of the candy bars also say distributed by. As a consumer I want the law amended that all products must show where they are made, this gives me the right as a consumer and an American to consume the products I choose. I have bought products with a sticker with an American flag in it, and when I removed the sticker it did not surprised me that it was made in China. I also try to find souvernirs that are made in the USA, I do not need a sourvenir of the Smokey Mountains, or Disney, etc that is made in China, because that would make it a souvenir of China.

Deception is the the name of the game, so unless it's crystal clear and it shows the country of origin, I will not purchase the product.

Jonathan Emmons said...

All of you that have commented previous to myself are all correct. I too stumbled onto this Blog while trying to find out what the term "DISTRIBUTED BY" means. So i started Researching this to see what i could find out. The best i can figure is that NOTHING is being Made to the standards of MADE IN THE U.S.A. and by making our food products in foriegn countries this is how the Multinationals are getting around the much more strick standards of MADE IN THE U.S.A. So i started a blog about this very issue. My first article is about Kellogg's. But as all of you reading this know, Kellogg's is only one name in a very long list of Corporate Names of US Companies that are doing this. Please go read my blog and subscribe to it to keep up to date on what other companies are pulling this crap on us. Thank you to our Host Blogger here.

Anonymous said...

We shop at Aldis, and enjoy the lower prices, and so far the quality of the goods. Now I am wondering after looking for answers as to where Aldis buys there goods. On their labels it only will state "Distributed by Aldis". I really want some answers. Our USA watch dogs are a sleep at the wheel. Why don't they do something about labeling?

NC Zoo area said...

Just read the label on Malt O Meal Frosted Flakes. The label says distributed by Malt O Meal and Made in the USA. So the label can reveal both pieces of info.

Why is it not required by law to do so?

Just looked at Domino and Dixie Crystal suger on my shelf. Where/how can I purchase sugar made in the USA? Can't tell by the label on these two products.

birdeeb said...

So last night I was making salmon for my family and it's the frozen kind from the says "wild caught." As I read the package more carefully it said it was from a fish farm!! How is that WILD caught?? Oh I was SO MAD! THEN I read further and it said product of US AND Product of China! WHICH IS IT? It's so irritating how they poisin our minds into thinking something is what we should be eating when in fact it's all wishy washy. I found your blog by typing in "Product of China." Good post. Also just to let you know about store brand verses NAME brand. My husband used to work in a plastic bag packaging company and he said that they took ziplock bags and put them in the store brand packages. A lot of companies will do it as a product research to see who will buy "generic" as opposed to "name brand." It could be the same with the crackers and such that you mentioned. But it does seem a lot of the big companies are going to China because they don't have to pay as much to manufacture items, which I don't agree with. I don't think there is enough quality control over in China. Or any at all for that matter. I am sure they would like to wipe us all off the planet and take over. I don't know why anyone would want to trust their business with the Chinese.

Rebecca Marsh said...

I am on the phone with Target Costumer service right now trying to get to the bottom of where Market Pantry Marshmallow Kettle Cooked Popcorn and Market Pantry Spooky Corn Tortilla Chips are made. The person I am speaking to is not able to help me with any information beyond the distribution is from Minneapolis. The customer service person (located in the Philippines) is taking my email for a supervisor to email me a response. I feel like Target is being very untrustworthy. Why hide the origin of food they sell? I have a right to know. To make an informed decision prior to purchasing. I am really disappointed. I plan to cancel my Target card if I don't get a truthful response. It's not worth saying 5% on Target purchases if I can't get transparent honesty. I googled "where are market pantry items from," and this is how I found this blog. I sure hope there is change soon. It's just angers me that Target is doing this and hasn't changed with all the complaints they get. Horrible.

Anonymous said...

This is a great thread, very enlightening. I work in the electronics manufacturing industry and one of our latest hurdles was a small section of the Dodd-Frank wall street reform act passed in 2010. This section refered to as the "conflict materials" section requires all electronics sold in the US to disclose if any raw minerals used in the device were sourced from conflict regions of the world. This includes every component down to the smallest resistor and screw. Implementation is not complete but ongoing.
My point being, full disclosure of where our food is sourced is a realistic expectation. We can anticipate the source for the least expensive processed food products on the shelf is China. We must vote with our $ and the products we buy to motivate these "distributors" to fully disclose the information we want to know.

Anonymous said...

Yes, this is very frustrating. What is wrong with our government agencies that were established for this reason? Why are they looking the other way? We all want to know where our food is made.

Have you ever googled China pollution? The images are dangerously disturbing. So, why are we importing food from a country that neglects Mother Earth and puts $$$ before humanity.

BOYCOTT! Consumers have the power to change this negligent abuse. Don't wait or rely on any government run agency to take action.