Is Your Food a Fake?

Olive oil

Phony “extra virgin” olive oil has been in the news recently, but that’s hardly the only fake food that consumers need to be wary about, CNN reported Jan. 23.

The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) recently released a report on “food fraud” that found that olive oil, milk, saffron, honey, and coffee are the foods most likely to be adulterated, diluted, or mislabeled by manufacturers. Others include tea, fish, clouding agents that are used in fruit juices to make products look freshly squeezed, maple syrup, and other spices like turmeric, black pepper and chili pepper.

Common tactics include added filler items and mixing less-expensive ingredients with more-expensive products. For example, some pomegranate juice actually contains grape or pear juice and is made with grape skins.

To avoid fraud:

  • Buy “whole” products, when possible — lemons rather than lemon juice, for example, and whole spices you can grind yourself
  • Stick with brands and stores you trust
  • Don’t believe the hype on new products that have supposed health benefits — you’ll pay a premium, and the claims may not be true or proven
  • Be wary of paying for white tuna, which might not even be tuna, but rather a cheaper fish called escolar
  • Check the taste, smell and look of what you are buying. If you have suspicions, check online for fraud reports on that brand
  • Petition the FDA to better regulate frequently fraudulent products, like honey and olive oil
(Photo © Bgootsab via Flickr)