The issue of food fraud and fake food is one that affects all of us. It even poses a threat to public safety and security. Food manufacturers are faced with increased demands for higher profit margins to please their shareholders. As a result, some have resorted to the unscrupulous and sometimes hazardous practice of food fraud. It can be as simple as paying for champagne when in fact you are buying a generic sparkling wine. Or more unsavory, it can be buying plastic pellets that have been labeled as rice. Be aware of the products that are most counterfeited and avoid becoming a victim of food fraud.
Here is a list of consumer products that have been found to be most affected by food fraud:
Fish and seafood food fraud
- your King fish steaks and/or fillets may actually be Carite or Mackerel.
- your bake and shark may be bake and lion fish. As a method to control an invasive species bake and shark vendors are encouraged to substitute the endangered shark with lion fish which is still labeled as shark and priced as such.
- your tuna may actually be Escolar, also known as Snake Mackerel. People who have consumed Escolar at sushi restaurants have been known to suffer from Keriorrhea which is the production of greasy, orange-colored stools which results from the consumption of indigestible wax esters found in Escolar.
- your red snapper may be red tilapia. As ocean fish stocks decline due to unsustainable harvesting many fishmongers resort to relabeling the freshwater red tilapia as red snapper.
- your lobster may actually be langostino. This generally is the case when you are ordering dishes like lobster bisque or a lobster salad as opposed to a whole lobster meal. Langostino is nothing more than a large type of shrimp.
Alcohol food fraud
- could be mislabeled to disguise the country of origin as with the case of champagne.
- lower grade spirits labeled as premium.
- products such as anti-freeze or methanol labeled as alcohol.
Honey food fraud
- cane syrup or high fructose corn syrup added to honey to increase profit margin.
- cane syrup or high fructose corn syrup with added food coloring and artificial flavors labeled as honey.
Olive oil food fraud
- soya bean and/or palm oil added to olive oil to boost profit margin but labeled as 100% olive oil.
- soya bean and/or palm oil with added food coloring and flavoring labeled as extra virgin olive oil.
- regular olive oil labeled as extra virgin olive oil.
Coffee food fraud
- ground coffee may not be 100% coffee, but may contain other plant material such as ground branches and animal skins. This practice is done once again to boost profit margins.
Tea food fraud
- herbal teas may contain the dyed leaves of other cheaper plants, like weeds. This is done to increase shelf life and boost profit margins.
Almond milk food fraud
- this natural vegan alternative to cow’s milk turns out to be only 2% almonds. The other 98% is made of sugar, water, calcium carbonate, carrageenan, sodium and artificially fortified with various minerals and vitamins.
- carrageenan is a gelling, thickening, and stabilizing agent that is not digestible and has no nutritional value.
- researchers have linked carrageenan to gastrointestinal disease in lab animals, including ulcerative colitis, intestinal lesions, and colon cancer.
Saffron food fraud
- some “top-quality” saffron allegedly contains as little as 10 per cent of actual saffron.
- saffron is the most expensive spice in the world and has been referred to as “red gold”. The part used is the stigma of the flower. Saffron suppliers have used other parts of the plants and simply dyed it red.
- in worst case scenarios the plant material you may be paying all that money for may not be saffron at all but another plant dyed red with saffron flavoring added.
Milk and baby formula food fraud
- melamine has been added to milk and baby formula in the past to bulk it up leading to deadly consequences.
- melamine is primarily used in the production of fire retardant plastics and flooring and causes kidney stones and even death as in the case of Sept. 12, 2008.
- melamine is sometimes added to animal feed and eventually ends up into our food chain.
By now, you may be fearing the worst, and the question you may have is how not be a victim of food fraud? The answer is simple. Take matters into your own hands. Where possible, make your meals yourself, that way you would know exactly what goes into them. Almond milk is really simple and easy to make from scratch. See homemade almond milk recipe and benefits. In this article, we have dealt with the mislabeling of food, but there are more sinister versions of food fraud. Some are more dangerous like the use of chemical compounds to make fake food.
Most of these products are counterfeited or mislabeled because of demand. You could practise your own due diligence. Look up your favorite brand and see if they are guilty of food fraud. Try to buy directly from the source. For example, try to get your honey straight from a beekeeper and not a grocery chain.
With the case of olive oil, there is a cheaper alternative that is coconut oil. Coconut oil has similar health benefits to olive oil with the addition of having a higher smoke point and you being able to cook with it at a high temperature. It is cheaper than the imported olive oil because coconut oil is produced locally. Always keep in mind that every time you consume food from an external source you are giving away some of your power to control what you eat.
See video from Ministry of Finance and Legal Affairs, Joint Select Committee on Food fraud. 3rd Public JSC Meeting: Finance and Legal Affairs. Streamed live on May 20, 2016. The Committee met with officials of the Consumer Affairs Division of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Trinidad and Tobago Bureau of Standards and the Chemistry, Food and Drugs Division of the Ministry of Health.
January 2017 www.sweettntmagazine.com
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