If you are what you eat, you might be having an identity crisis.
A new study on food fraud was released Wednesday morning by U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), a scientific nonprofit organization that helps set standards for the "quality, safety and benefit" of foods and medicines. The group runs a searchable online database of food fraud reports at foodfraud.org and nearly 800 new records were added as part of the study - a 60% increase from last year.
Food fraud, as defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is the adulteration, dilution or mislabeling of goods. USP further defines food fraud in the study as "the fraudulent addition of nonauthentic substances or removal or replacement of authentic substances without the purchaser's knowledge for economic gain to the seller."
The new records show that the most commonly fraudulent products are olive oil, milk, saffron, honey and coffee.
Tea, fish, clouding agents (used in fruit juices, like lemon, to make products look freshly squeezed), maple syrup and spices (turmeric, black pepper and chili pepper) were also top imposters.
Most of the reported food fraud was committed by producers adding fillers (i.e. other plant leaves to tea leaves), mixing in less expensive spices with high value spices or watering down liquids. Olive oils were often replaced and/or diluted with cheaper vegetable oils. Clouding agents were found in 877 food products from 315 different companies. Another popular target: Pomegranate juice, often made with grape skins and grape and pear juices.
Tips to combat food fraud
Editor’s note: For more on fake ingredients in food, don’t miss “Sanjay Gupta, MD” on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET and Sunday at 7:30 a.m. ET.