Food fraud on the rise
When it comes to certain foods these days, what you see is not necessarily what you get.
According to a scientific examination by a nonprofit food fraud group, U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), there are a growing number of fake ingredients in products ranging in everything from fruit juice to spices and even olive oil.
In fact, the senior director for USP warns consumers that food fraud is up by 60 percent this year. Some of the most popular targets for unscrupulous food suppliers include pomegranate juice, which is often diluted with pear or grape juice. And the list goes on:
- Lemon juice: filtered with water and sugar
- Olive oil: often contains cheaper oils
- Spices: many like paprika contain dangerous food colorings
- Tea: mixed with fern leaves or lawn grass
USP says it also found several instances where fish like escolar was being passed off as tuna. Milk, coffee, syrup and honey also made the list of highly tainted foods. The FDA and the Grocery Manufacturers Association say they take food adulteration “very seriously,” and are committed to maintaining consumer confidence in the products they purchase. The FDA did recently issue an alert for mislabeled pomegranate juice as well as one for the adulteration of honey.
According to its website, USP “sets standards for the identity, strength, quality and purity of medicines, food ingredients, and dietary supplements manufactured, distributed and consumed worldwide.” The site’s database includes nearly 800 new records, published in 2011 and 2012.
The site says many of the products often adulterated tend to be the most expensive and recommend that consumers buy from brands they trust. Here are a couple of other ways to help identify a faux from the real thing the next time you’re shopping for items that made the list:
- Look for harvest dates on items like olive oil or if the bottle is really dark.
- Lastly, follow the old adage, “If the deal is too good to be true then it probably is.”
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