Faux pas! Food fraud on the rise
January 23rd, 2013
09:00 AM ET
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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

  • If there's a "whole" alternative, use it. Buy lemons instead of lemon juice; pomegranates instead of pomegranate juice; loose leaf tea; saffron threads; etc. Also, purchase the whole spice (peppercorns, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon sticks) and grind/grate it yourself.
  • Buy from reputable sources and brands you trust, including your local farmers market, co-op and natural food store. Know the who, when and where of the product.
  • Don't buy into the newest health trend. Food fraud appears more commonly in high-value ingredients that are linked to health benefits and consumers pay a premium for.
  • Beware "white tuna" - it's often not a member of the tuna family at all. Escolar is commonly marketed as white tuna, super white tuna, butterfish and walu. Escolar is edible - and legal - but the Food and Drug Administration does not encourage its consumption. It includes a waxy substance, called gempylotoxin, that humans can't digest and can cause purgative effects.
  • Educate yourself and train your palate. Does it taste, smell and look right? If you're wary, search online to see if that particular brand has been reported as fraudulent before.
  • Petition the FDA to set standards for the most commonly fraudulent products, like honey and olive oil.

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.

Previously - Most honey sold in U.S. grocery stores not worthy of its name and MAPLE Act would sting syrup fakes

soundoff (265 Responses)
  1. Jenny Rodgers

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  7. Percolated Prose

    Reblogged this on Percolated Prose and commented:
    What you didn't know you didn't know about commercial foods:

    January 28, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
  8. gincoolette

    Reblogged this on Intellectual Salon's Blog.

    January 28, 2013 at 8:00 am |
  9. MessaLOVEfoodz

    if your one of those people who say '/I wont eat something I can't pronounce'

    It's not our fault that big-boy words scare you and you lack the vernacular of an grown-up LOL

    January 25, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
    • jlv

      It's not about things I can or can't pronounce, its about bait and switch. If they did this with medicine to you, I bet you would have a fit. I shouldn't be charged full price or lied to so you can save a penny. If you charge less and tell me what's in it then no problem, but when you lie and charge full price, you are a sick selfish individual and deserve to be punished.

      February 6, 2013 at 11:01 am |
  10. Thereallyrealone2013

    You have people that eat good, healthy, organic foods that they grow, those that eat produce from grocery stores, that would like to grow their own food. Then there are people that just dont care one way or another. I think some good advice and a little education for those that are interested would go a long way and would better convince someone to try growing or shopping in a healthier way. We usually get advice and education from many sources including friends and family, books, the internet, and from local growers. If you have knowledge, be willing to share it with others, instead of just being mean.

    January 25, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
  11. emmafine

    Reblogged this on Manhattan Mountain and commented:
    Pure Mountain Olive Oils are never diluted, make sure you know what you are purchasing, some Olive Oils are replaced with cheaper vegetable oils

    January 25, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
  12. Marx

    Why don't we just charge the FDA with food fraud? They allow millions of poisonous pills (antidepressants,anti-anxiety medications,etc.) to be prescribed with little or anecdotal research done, while natural plants and foods which are actually effective can't make medical claims on their labels, because they don't want competition in the pharmaceutical industry...

    January 24, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
    • Robert

      Your post is BLATANTLY false and is VERY misleading! The FDA requires EXTENSIVE testing of new drugs before they are approved. This includes anti-depressants! You DO realize that the number one problem associated with patients taking anti-depressants is GUESS WHAT? DEPRESSION!!!!! THAT is why they were prescribed the medicine in the first place! Most patients exhibiting problems associated with depression either 1. need a different type or strength, but have failed to communicate any issues to their doctor or 2. DO NOT TAKE their medicine as directed! MANY people suffering from depression stop taking their meds as soon as they begin to "feel better"! They convince themselves that they no longer need it, but fail to understand HOW antidepressants work! This can be dangerous and disastrous when the patient's serotonin levels suddenly drop causing an emotional crises! THIS IS typically WHEN and WHY those highly publicized "side effects" tend to occur! These "problems" or "side effects" are actually SYMPTOMS of their already diagnosed DEPRESSION and are NOT the product of the prescription! If you will do a little research in ACTUAL MEDICAL publications, you will discover these well known issues!...
      Also, There is absolutely NO reason that a "truly effective" natural remedy cannot be advertised as such! The only requirement is FDA approved clinical studies that PROVE some amount of effectiveness! Herein lies the problem! MOST so-called natural remedies HAVE NOT been proven to have ANY positive medical effectiveness or usefulness whatsoever! Remember, it is the responsibility of the entity SELLING the so-called "remedy" to conduct FDA approved clinical trials! Most natural remedy distributors do not bother to test ANY of their products in fear of their OWN tests proving them ineffective!

      January 28, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
      • Alex

        Freaking out and putting words in caps does not a point make.

        February 8, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
  13. Chet

    Because the article fails to name names, I am reposting this from posts below
    With regard to olive oil brands:
    Found to have be fraudulently labeled as Extra-Virgin:
    Whole Foods
    Rachel Ray
    Newman's Own
    Filippo Berio

    Found to be accurately labeled as Extra-Virgin:
    Kirkland Organic
    Corto Olive
    California Olive Ranch
    McEvoy Ranch Organic

    Source: Tests indicate that imported “extra virgin”olive oil often fails international and USDA standards – UC Davis Olive Center, July 2010

    For Honey, the Food Safety News identified the following brands as problematic:
    • American Choice Clover Honey
    • Archer Farms Orange Blossom Honey
    • Archer Farms Organic Classic Honey
    • Busy Bee Organic Honey
    •Busy Bee, Pure Clover Honey
    •CVS Honey
    • Fred Meyer Clover Honey
    • Full Circle Pure Honey
    •Giant Eagle Clover Honey
    •GE Clover Honey
    •Great Value, Clover Honey
    •Haggen Honey, Natural & Pure
    • HT Traders Tupelo Honey
    •Kroger Pure Clover Honey
    • Market Pantry Pure Honey
    • Mel-o 100 % Pure Honey
    •Natural Sue Bee Clover Honey
    •Naturally Preferred Fireweed Honey
    •Rite Aid Honey
    • Safeway Clover Honey
    • Silver Bow Pure Honey
    • Stop and Shop Clove Honey
    • Sue Bee Clover Honey
    • Thrifty Bee Honey
    • Valutime Honey
    •Walgreen MEL-O honey
    •Western Family Clover Honey
    •Wegman Clover Honey
    •Winnie the Pooh, Pure Clover

    Source: Tests Show Most Store Honey Isn’t Honey, Food Safety News, Nov. 7, 2011

    January 24, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • Great

      ... and because you think so highly of what your posted.

      January 24, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
      • Flooby

        AND that "Great" is a great big dink.

        January 24, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
        • NotsoGreat@Flooby

          Yeah, but the point was well made. Don't be such a dink.

          January 28, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
    • Rhonda

      Thanks for posting this, Chet!!

      January 24, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Treese

      Thanks for the lists!

      January 24, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
      • frespech

        Can anyone tell me what they are adding to adulterate the honey?

        January 28, 2013 at 11:24 am |
        • The Missing ee's

          "For Honey, the Food Safety News identified the following brands as problematic:"
          DYO research. JFGI.

          January 28, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
  14. Hugh Jass

    Agriculture is a funny thing. Right now, one of the main concerns is RoundUp©. It's awful, it has problems, and it's the safest defoliant ever. Without it, we can't produce enough food – seriously. We need the stuff bad. Anyone who comes up with a better RoundUp© will be uber-rich in a week and probably kill Monsanto too.

    January 24, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
    • Sapphire

      I was defoliated when I was 16.

      January 24, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • billindetroit

      Actually, RoundUp is NOT an essential ingredient in farming.

      February 6, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
  15. Rhonda

    Kat Kinsman could have been better in her delivery of this story. I have news for her, the FDA DOES NOT work for us. She needs to do in depth research on her subject matter. I didn't learn anything that I didn't already know. This is not new that the "food manufacturers" have been duping and poisoning the consumer for years. Most "sheeple" are just too trusting/dumb to understand it's all about taking our money (they are corporations who are behind your "food") and good old Madison Avenue putting out commercials to make you think that you are eating wholesome "food". Read the labels. Buy organic, grow your own fruits and vegetables (make sure you are buying organic seeds), buy fresh produce. Stop being lazy and complacent. Your government DOES nothing to insure your health and safety. It is up to you.

    January 24, 2013 at 11:53 am |
  16. Mr Wonderful

    To all the people who replied to this post @Jim Crow is clearly a troll just trying to rile people up and laugh at the results. Don't entertain such nonsense

    January 24, 2013 at 10:50 am |
  17. hmm

    Goldman Sachs and other Bankers causing food prices to rise by speculating on them. Im wondering why these Robber Barons arent in prison already.... oh yeah they own our politicians on BOTH sides of the aisle.

    January 24, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • heres a link

      heres a youtube link youtube dot com watch?v=uraDTyfDwa4

      Goldman Sacha betting on food prices to rise so they gain profit and people starve.

      January 24, 2013 at 9:57 am |
  18. Hogan's Goat

    Your candidate lost, and you think that's SO unfair. Your tears of impotent rage and racist squealing are mildly amusing.

    January 24, 2013 at 9:02 am |
  19. cedar rapids

    and yet I bet you moan about the 'race card'

    January 24, 2013 at 8:58 am |
  20. I know how to google

    Maybe you should learn how to Google too? :D

    Re: "Obama phone"


    January 24, 2013 at 8:45 am |
  21. gager

    I don't want the government inspecting my food or water. They are absolutely incompetent in everything.

    January 24, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • Kotawolf

      They already to inspect the food and water....

      January 24, 2013 at 8:59 am |
    • Hogan's Goat

      Please smarten up. Food packers know ways to sell you carrion that you wouldn't believe. If we didn't have the USDA, you'd be eating Soylent Green© and loving it.

      January 24, 2013 at 9:00 am |
      • JB

        Why bother with soylent green when you can have something as wonderfully nutritious as a McRib sandwich or chicken nuggets? Thanks for looking out for us, USDA!

        January 24, 2013 at 9:54 am |
      • SB1790

        The prettier the package, cheaper the price and all out advertising campaign for a product should clue you in that it's probably not as good for you as the claim. Hmm...the organic certified mercury free fish or the 89 cent off brand can with warnings that this product contains soy...well I'd be an idiot for being fooled into paying the higher price. I'm a smart shopper! NOT!

        January 24, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • Howard

      Well, they seem pretty competent when it comes to getting your taxes, so they're obviously not incompetent in EVERYthing.

      January 24, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Unegen

      Government inspection of your water is why you have not died from lead poisoning or cholera. Would you prefer that?

      January 24, 2013 at 10:31 am |
  22. gager

    The government is not the answer to any social or economic problems. It's to bad people don't pay attention in history class. It's the same old story. Pass a law that doesn't work and pass another law that doesn't work and so on until all you have is very restricting laws and a huge government.

    January 24, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • Howard

      Oh, come on! The obvious answer is no government and no laws? So, who puts the teeth when a doctor or dentist fails to meet certain standards? How about auto safety? What about making sure the big semi passing you on the highway has properly maintained brakes? And I guess you want all those thousands of airliners flitting all over the sky without anyone to keep them from smashing into one another or your house when they finally hit the ground?

      January 24, 2013 at 9:49 am |
  23. ionymous

    Face it Jim, it doesn't matter who the president is. You'd be complaining either way.

    January 24, 2013 at 8:35 am |
  24. Melanie

    What an Idiot you are!!!

    January 24, 2013 at 8:13 am |
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