In days of yore, the local grocer stocked up to three hundred items usually grown, produced or processed within a radius of 150 miles. Today’s stores stock up to 33,000 items that can travel up to 1,490 miles or more. Unfortunately with the rise of choices comes the rise of unscrupulous players that exploit the complex supply chain required to move this much food this far. Food fraud is very real. We may be buying low-quality food at inflated prices, or eating food or taking supplements with undisclosed, often unsafe ingredients or allegens. More reason to buy locally grown, sourced and produced foods, and only purchase from known and reliable suppliers..
Food fraud is worldwide, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency suggests it affects 10 per cent of commercially sold food. Probably a very conservative figure – the sale of fake Australian meats alone totaled in the neighbourhood of $2.5billion USD. Consider that 12,800 kilograms of adulterated honey was blocked from entering the Canadian market in 2019, and 20% of sausages sampled from grocery stores contained unlabeled meats. The biggest targets of the fakers are olive oil, honey, dry spices, fish, fruit juices and organic food products.
Olive oil, especially EVO, can be adulterated with soybean, canola, hazelnut, sunflower and colour enhancing ingredients such as chlorophyll and beta-carotene. Products labeled “bottled in Italy” or “produced in Italy” could mean it was only bottled there – not made in the country. HINT: Olive oil gelato is popular in Italy. Try drizzling a pure EVO on vanilla ice cream with a sprinkle of sea salt. Fantastico!
Honey is doctored with the addition of sucrose syrup from sugar beets, maltose syrup, and industrial glucose and fructose obtained from the heat, enzymatic, or acid treatment of starch. If you want to avoid fake honey, buy local.
One particularly troubling example of botanical adulteration is in the case of turmeric. Powdered turmeric (Curcuma longa) can be adulterated with yellow dyes often containing lead, starch, chalk and yellow soapstone, or substituted with synthetic curcumin.
To avoid adulterants such as marigold flowers, corn silk, chalk, dyed onions and strands of cotton or plastic threads in saffron buy the spice in whole threads. Pure saffron is expensive, but do you really want to eat plastic threads?
In a recent survey of eleven CoQ10 dietary supplements available online, only 4 of the brands tested contained anywhere near the stated mg/capsule. In one sample there was no detectable trace of CoQ10. The colour of your CoQ10 supplement can help determine its authenticity, it is naturally a deep orange.
Food fraud hurts everyone, it puts consumers at risk of ingesting unknown ingredients and unwittingly paying more for a low quality or misrepresented product. Ethical producers of high-quality products also suffer from being put at a competitive disadvantage by fraudsters. Become a savvy consumer by:
- Reading the label to ensure that what you are buying is clearly identified on the product.
- Being aware of common foods that can become victims of fraud.
- Shopping at trusted retailers and connecting with your local community of producers and shoppers.
- Choose brands and suppliers you know. If you suspect food fraud, report it to the retailer immediately.
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