Eager to capitalize on the growing popularity of locally grown food, many large supermarket chains are hanging signs in their produce sections that tout the local origins of fruits and vegetables. But those signs are often misleading. As the Baltimore Sun reported in July 2009:
Signs atop the produce case in Baltimore-area Safeway stores promoted "local" apples from Virginia and New Jersey. But the Granny Smiths and galas in the case hailed from Chile and New Zealand.
Under a cute farm-truck mural and the words "Home Grown," Wegmans in Hunt Valley offered eggplants grown so far away – the Netherlands – that their stickers were in French: "Aubergine." Also in that produce case: white asparagus from Peru, bell peppers from Canada – and, yes, some zucchini and yellow squash grown in the United States.
Similar reports are surfacing across the country.
To protect its citizens from deceptive advertising, the state of Vermont implemented a law in 2008 that says that labels like "local" and "locally grown" may be applied only to food and other goods that originate in Vermont or within 30 miles of where they are being sold.
From Title 9 of Vermont Statutes:
§ 2465a. Definition of local and locally grown For the purposes of this chapter and rules adopted pursuant to subsection 2453(c) of this chapter, "local," "locally grown," and any substantially similar term shall mean that the goods being advertised originated within Vermont or 30 miles of the place where they are sold, measured directly, point to point, except that the term "local" may be used in conjunction with a specific geographic location, such as "local to New England," or a specific mile radius, such as "local-within 100 miles," as long as the specific geographic location or mile radius appears as prominently as the term "local," and the representation of origin is accurate. (Added 2007, No. 207 (Adj. Sess.), § 6, eff. June 11, 2008.)