Food Fraud Is Real

Counterfeiting and mislabeling on the rise

Feb 26, 2014
Outside Magazine
Outside Magazine OutsideOnline Food Fraud

Tuna product is often cut with other fish and mislabeled    HandmadePictures/Thinkstock

A new black market has emerged, and you may have already participated. Counterfeit foods are starting to become a very real and very scary business. Organized criminals are selling long-grain rice and calling it basmati. They’re bottling Spanish olive oil and labeling it Italian. They’re masking mixtures of industrial solvents and alcohol as vodka. And they’re making a lot of money. 

The counterfeit food market has taken already cheap foods and made them cheaper. Much like a drug dealer, these fake-food operations are cutting costs by substituting lower-end ingredients and practices for fraudulently labeled final products.

Studies are finding herbal teas without herbs or tea and juices that contain brominated vegetable oil, which is often used as a flame retardant. Labeled tuna turns out to be an unidentifiable concoction of random meats, and some vodkas were found with isopropanol, a substance used in antifreeze and industrial solvents.

Although many of these stories have emerged from the UK and Europe, the fake-food problem has certainly hit the United States. According to Western Farm Press, “The National Center for Food Protection and Defense estimates that Americans pay $10 billion to $15 billion annually for fake food—often due to product laundering, dilution, and intentionally false labeling.”

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