Saturday, January 26, 2013

Food Fraud- Buyer Beware - Diluting Foods With Cheaper Ingredients

One of the major reasons to buy whole foods and bulk spices is that you are guaranteed to be getting what you buy, for the most part. Otherwise, you might not be getting what you paid for, or more importantly what you expected.

Food fraud is up 60%- everything from diluted pomegranate juice and olive oil, to lawn grass in tea bags, to escolar replacing white tuna fish, which can cause stomach issues in some. Apparently, 7% of the food we buy in stores is fraud food.

The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) has been conducting research and it isn't pretty.

In a new database to be released Wednesday, and obtained exclusively by ABC News today, USP warns consumers, the FDA and manufacturers that the amount of food fraud they found is up by 60 percent this year.

USP, a scientific nonprofit that according to their website "sets standards for the identity, strength, quality, and purity of medicines, food ingredients, and dietary supplements manufactured, distributed and consumed worldwide" first released the Food Fraud Database in April 2012.

The organization examined more than 1,300 published studies and media reports from 1980-2010. The update to the database includes nearly 800 new records, nearly all published in 2011 and 2012.

The worst offenders:

100% lemon juice is rarely over 35% of actual juice. Some were found to contain less than 10%. The rest is water and sugar.
Olive oil is not always pure. That expensive Extra Virgin Olive oil is oftentimes mixed with cheaper  oils.
Pomegranate juice was found to be be diluted with pear or grape juice, and in some cases no pomegranate juice at all.

Tea can contain fern leaves or lawn grass. No wonder some are so tasteless.
Coffee, honey, milk and maple syrup can also be easily diluted with other ingredients.

Be warned that if the cost of something that is usually expensive is cheap, walk away. It's more than likely adulterated in some way. Not that buying something expensive will guarantee you are getting the pure product.

Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to tell if something is mislabeled, so if you want lemon juice, buy a bag and juice them yourself. That's what we do.

In case you want to check a particular food, USP has a searchable database.

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