Food Fraud: Do you Know What You Are Really Buying?
Think food fraud is a modern scandal, think again. It’s been going on for years. Back in the days of old, Romans keen to maximise profits would pass off old wine that had seen better days disguising the bitter taste with sweeteners. While 200 yrs ago London meat traders were colouring rotting cuts of meat and fish to avoid losses on spoilt stock from over supply and stretching expensive commodities out by cutting it with cheaper products.
The horsemeat scandal of 2013 has brought this whole issue back into the forefronts of consumers’ minds again and has fired up the pubic to demand the right to know what they are buying and eating. And rightly so! More cases coming to light since then highlight just how little has been done to rectify the injustice of food contamination and food fraud.
Cases of Food Fraud
- Baby food contaminated with melamine, an industrial chemical used in plastic, during 2008 resulted in the death of infants and many thousands more suffered kidney problems.
- This year, 2016, the FSA discovered Cumin in the UK cut with cheaper peanuts and almonds, deadly for those with nut allergies. This scandal followed a poor harvest of the spice which sky rocketed the market price.
- In April 2014 Which? exposé revealed as many as one in five UK kebab houses, had their lamb products contaminated with other meat or had no lamb in them at all!
- Pizzas labelled as topped with “ham and cheese” found that the cheese was in fact not cheese at all but a mix of emulsifiers, vegetable oils and other things. While the ham was coloured turkey.
- China has faced an influx of fake eggs made from resin, starch, coagulants and pigments. Although obviously a complete violation, I can’t help but be impressed by the skill of the engineering behind it.
- Chicken breasts and frozen seafood packages have frequently been found to be bulked up with water increasing the weight by as much a double the protein value.
- Olive oils, juices and honey cut with lower grade varieties and cheap substitutes.
- Ground Parmesan cheese found to contain woodchips, too much cellulose and in some cases no Parmesan cheese at all!
It’s a difficult matter to tackle. It becomes increasingly difficult when food travels around with various stop points for processing and handling. We can help ourselves by buying less processed food which is an easy target for contamination. Cooking meals from scratch and buying whole cuts of clearly identifiable meat and whole vegetables. Buy from source and local as much as possible and ask questions of the trader about where the product has come from.
Be wary of popular premium products coming from specific locals such as Manuka Honey. Production auditing has shown sales figures outstripping production supply by an incredible 80%. Chances of you getting a genuine product there are pretty slim.
It’s a big problem and one that we should all care about and pay attention to. There are so many implications compromising our ethics, culture and religious believes. The fact that we are being ripped off and food producers are being undermined. We also need to address our own attitudes towards how much we think food should cost and budget in that cost accordingly.