The growing number of cases of food fraud has yielded the inauguration of the Food Fraud Database to track food fakery of household goods sold in stores nationwide. The database was used in a paper published in the Journal of Food Science to analyze the top culprits identified by the system. Researchers first collected information from articles in scholarly journals and general media, organized the data into the database, and then used it to review and analyze the information to identify the common trends in food fraudulence. The paper concluded its analysis with identifying olive oil, milk,honey, and saffron as the most common foods that are tampered with by manufacturers, potentially harming the health of consumers.
"Food ingredients and additives present a unique risk because they are used in so many food products and often do not have visual or functional properties that enable easy discrimination from other similar ingredients or adulterants throughout the supply chain," states the paper.
Currently, the Food Fraud Database only has records of cases of food fraud from 1980 to 2012, leaving many Americans concerned that there is more harmful foods on shelves that have yet to be unveiled. In an investigation conducted by Food Safety News, 60 different containers of foreign honey from 10 different states were sent for review to Vaughn Bryant, premier melissopalynologist and professor at Texas A&M University, said Food Safety News. Bryant found that three-fourths of his samples contained no pollen. (A noteworthy finding is that some food stores, such as many farmers markets, co-ops, and Trader Joe's, sold real, 100 percent honey.)
Bryant, along with many others, found this to be problematic, because the pollen is an indicator of the honey's origin. Without the pollen, there is no way, for example, to tell whether "honeysuckle honey" or "avocado honey" really comes from those plants. In fact, according to the Food Safety News Article, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's guidelines state that "honey" that's been so excessively filtered as to retain no pollen whatsoever can no longer be considered honey. The National Honey Board, on the other hand, debates this claim, stating that honey is made from the plants nectar alone, and that whether or not it has pollen is irrelevant.
Regardless, there are some cases (particularly with imported goods) where products are being sold that are well beyond this debate. The picture above, for example, shows cane sugar with honeysuckle fragrance and food coloring added to it, formed into a block, and sold as "honey" in places like China.
Food fraud is a growing trend in the U.S. and goes beyond just honey — food producers add fillers, mix inexpensive spices, and water down liquids to maximize their profits with relatively low investment. The danger is that adulterated, diluted, and mislabeled food increases the risk of bacteria and harmful diseases. "We cannot relinquish the safety of our food to adulterers," said Markus Lipp, senior director of food standards for U.S. Pharmacopeia, to National Public Radio (NPR).
It's time to become a more health-conscientious food shopper and learn how to spot a faux food product on your grocery store's shelf.
Faux honey represents seven percent of food fraud cases, according to the study in Journal of Food Sciences. Pollen from the bee-made product rarely makes it to store shelves, with 75 percent of honey containing no pollen. The United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) United States Standards for Grades of Extracted Honey allows pollen to be screened out as part of a process to remove particles of bee parts and organic matter, but producers are using this to their advantage to sell cheaper "honey." The faux honey scandal arose when China began to launder the sweet bee product by sending containers of cut-rate honey to the Philippines to have it relabeled and sent to American companies. The honey was contaminated with unauthorized antibiotics and pesticides that can impose a series of health risks to consumers of the nectar product.
This oil has ranked as the food most susceptible to fraud, accounting for 16 percent of the Food Fraud Database records. Extra virgin olive oil supposedly imported from Spain or Italy may not hail from the country the food label claims. Producers are diluting the food product with fake oils, such sunflower oil and vegetable oil. In a report by the USP, one of the cases of olive oil fraud contained lard - pig fat - as the adulterant.
This spice is exotic and costly, which makes it vulnerable to adulteration. The vivid crimson color and thread commonly found in saffron have been substituted by turmeric, poppy petals, gypsum, and even sandalwood dye, reports the FDD. Other spices are commonly diluted with lead chromate, and in some cases toxic Japanese star anise is sold as "Chinese star anis" after being diluted with lead tetroxide.
Milk doesn't always come from a cow. The dairy product consumed by adults and kids of all ages has been found to be sold as faux milk - the combination of oil, urea, detergent, caustic soda, sugar, salt, and skim milk powder. During the 2009, Chinese milk scandal, which caused alarm throughout the world, 50 to 60 children from poor farm families in China died after being fed fake milk formula that contained little to no nutrients, said CBS News.
While orange juice can easily be made by anyone by using freshly squeezed oranges, juice producers still tamper with the vitamin C drink. Juice producers have been known to put unrecognizable lemon juice, grapefruit juice, and even beet sugar to pump up the drink. Orange juice is considered to be to be one of the FFD's most commonly reported products with potassium sulfate, corn sugar, and ascorbic acid added to the drink.
The morning cup of Joe possibly might not come from Colombia, Peru, or even from your local neighborhood. Instant coffee is more prone to adulteration than beans, often coming cut with cereals, starch, and figs, among many other ingredients. To prevent the risk of possible faux coffee, buy whole coffee beans and grind them at work or at the office.
This drink can provide a sigh of relief after a long day's work. However, drinking a cranberry vodka may not provide relief for your health. At least once, vodkas have been spotted to contain anti-freeze and other harmful chemicals, the Daily Mail reported in January of 2012l. A forensic analysis of the chemicals showed high levels of methanol that can cause a variety of problems - even death.
Fish is one of the most commonly tampered-with foods sold in the U.S. According to the Oceana Study, approximately 60 percent of the fish labeled "tuna" is in fact not tuna. Eighty-four percent of white tuna that is sold in Japanese restaurants was found to be escolar - a fish that can cause digestive effects.