Shoppers guide: How to spot the origin of your food

Barcode tips: what to look for

A woman choosing food in a supermarket. Credit: NDAB Creativity/

In a world that enjoys a wide choice of products thanks to global trade, is it really possible to know where our supermarket products come from?

A recent health scare involving hepatitis found in strawberries from Morocco underscores the importance of this question.

Identifying the origin of products, especially when it involves health concerns, is crucial for consumers to make informed shopping decisions.

Deciphering barcodes

The barcode is a familiar sight on products, offering more than just a means for pricing at checkouts. It harbours key details about a product’s journey.

Originating in the late 1960s and gaining global acceptance by 1970, the barcode’s initial digits, often referred to as the ‘flag’, reveal the product’s country of origin.

For goods from Morocco, the sequence begins with 611, contrasting with Spain’s 84, indicating the diverse origins of supermarket products.

Beyond the barcode

While barcodes offer a glimpse into a product’s origin, they don’t tell the whole story. ‘The number 84 only indicates that it was the Spanish subsidiary that provided the barcode,’ according to the Organisation of Consumers and Users (OCU).

This highlights the complexity of truly pinpointing where our purchases come from, despite the insights provided by these codes.

Ethical considerations and local impact

The ‘Do we swallow everything?’ campaign by the Association of Organisations of Fruit and Vegetable Producers of Almeria (Coexphal) prompts reflection on our buying choices, advocating for local consumption to support Spanish and European producers facing unfair competition.

The environmental and economic ramifications of preferring imports, such as increased carbon footprints and the undermining of local economies, further complicate the issue.

In summary, while barcodes and product labels can guide us to some extent, understanding the full implications of our purchasing decisions requires deeper insight.

As consumers, it’s our responsibility to stay informed, not only for our well-being but also for the broader impact on society and the environment.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Do remember to come back and check The Euro Weekly News website for all your up-to-date local and international news stories and remember, you can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.


    • Mrs j mason

      09 March 2024 • 23:21

      I prefer to buy local produce where possible but the bananas from the canary islands all seem to be in poor condition compared to counterparts imported from Costa Rica. Are the bananas badly handled on their journey from the Canaries?

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