Are You A Food Fraud Victim?
Cil Burke BSN
At the Burke household we’re eating a lot of fruits and veggies- 5, count ‘em, FIVE of each every day. Maybe Dean is beginning to look like a rabbit… That’s a lot of food.
I love nutrition, counsel patients about it, and OK, maybe I’m
borderline fanatical about it, so an article about food fraud in Smart Money caught my eye.
Food fraud. That’s not a typo, food fraud means food that is sold as one thing, but is actually another.
Maybe food fraud doesn’t seem as important as finding out that Coach purse I bought on the street corner was a fake. Or you finding your Chanel perfume was not only discounted but was also a knock-off.
But groceries take as much as a third of our monthly family budgets, and remember this is stuff we voluntarily put into our mouths. It bothers me to think what I’m eating may be different than what I THINK I’m eating. How ’bout you?
Food fraud is not a new subject, but there is a growing concern among those who monitor such things. Why?
- The increasing number of imported foods.
- Foods are easier to fake than a lot of other consumables.
If a food can be faked, it probably has been.
Food fraud comes in many forms:
- dilution: you are getting less than you thought you bought.
- adulteration: you are getting something else or something additional.
- mislabeling: What’s on the label is NOT what’s in the bottle/jar/container or is a different product all together.
Are we buying fake tomato’s, diluted olive oil, mislabeled wine, and what about that nice grouper filet you paid 15 bucks a pound for?
Foods coming from non-US sources have tripled in the last 10 years. Sure, we have greater variety because of that but less over-sight. Companies in countries with the least restrictions and safety standards simply reroute goods through a ‘safer’ country, making it more difficult to catch problems.
Food is Easier to Fake Than Some Goods.
Heirloom tomatoes look just like their ordinary, garden variety (punny huh…) relative except there is a big difference in the price.
Only a savvy consumer with the palette of a connoisseur can spot the difference in a $100 a bottle wine and its $10 step-child.
Natural foods are inherently, well, natural. Natural is supposed to be more artsy, less perfect. A bright orange fruit, artificially colored and waxed for shelf life prior to being shipped in trucks cross country may be less ‘natural’ looking to the organic only shopper who is looking for a higher priced variety. It’s just hard to know for sure.
The Risks of Fake Foods
For those with severe allergies, this can be a life threatening problem. Without a proper list of ingredients or additives that are below standard, there may be ingredients not intended for human consumption. Some substances may be added that are toxic to humans. Something that is consumed in small quantities may not cause a problem, though it has toxic or ‘unknown’ ingredients. Many fakes go undetected…. until someone gets sick or dies…
Most Suspicious Foods according to Smart Money:
- Olive Oil-The illustrious #1 spot for both additives and dilution.
- Milk-#2 spot for risk of adulteration, or circumspect additives
- Honey-It’s not counterfeit little honeybees, it’s the processing.
- Fruit drinks-Difficult to discern dilutions and substitutions.
- Infant formula-Be careful where and what you buy.
- Spices-Easily adulterated and diluted.
- Alcohol-Buy the cheap stuff, it’s probably OK-the top shelf bought from a guy on the street??? Hmmmm.
- Fish and seafood: If the eyes are looking at you, then it’s probably OK, if it doesn’t have eyes, then be careful. The substitution for a less expensive option is just too easy.
How Can we Make Safe Food Selections?
- Common sense: Don’t buy ‘off brands’ from the bins at the Swap Meet.
- Buy from reputable dealers. Know your local farmer.
- Branded products safeguard their supply chains more rigorously.
- Buying local produce shortens the supply chain and the risks.
- If the taste seems off or you get sick from food, notify the store and your local health department.
I buy store brands as often as possible for the cheaper price tag. The items that made the list above may be name brands in the future. Organic produce? I’ll just have to continue to pick and choose.
What about you? What are you doing to ensure you are buying food that is safe and fit for human consumption? I’d love some cheapo suggestions.
Cil Burke BSN
Photo Credit: BobMacInnes
“Like” me please!
My goal is 1000 Facebook likes before the end of the year. Please hit the “Like” button and help me reach my goal.
Link to me-at Linked In
Don’t miss anything here-RSS
Newsletter, for special people, with my special mini-e-course on personal finance and my special free e-book, at no extra charge-cause that’s the kinda guy I am! Don’t you want to be special?