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7 Most Common Food Frauds

A new database IDs foods most subject to tampering of some kind


If you’ve never heard of the United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), you’re hardly alone, but it’s been around since 1820, setting food and medicine standards. Under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security, the USP recently created a massive database of more than 1,300 scholarly articles and popular media reports about food additives and quality. From that database, researchers identified the seven leading foods subject to fraud.

The list may seem surprisingly benign: milk, honey, olive oil, saffron, apple juice, coffee and orange juice. However, the USP considers food fraud to be the “deliberate substitution, addition, tampering or misrepresentation of food, food ingredients or food packaging, or false or misleading statements made about a product for economic gain.” And there’s the rub — you can’t be sure exactly what has been added to common products.

According to MSNBC, researchers found that most food fraud consists of substituting a low-cost ingredient for a higher-cost one, like diluting expensive olive oil with hazelnut derivatives, which cost a lot less. That may not sound like something that should concern Homeland Security, but USP experts point out that it can have negative effects on the unwary. Glycerin, found in many products, has also sometimes been replaced with similar, but occasionally toxic, substitutes.

“Food ingredients and additives present a unique risk because they are used in so many food products and often do not have visual or functional properties that enable easy discrimination from other similar ingredients or adulterants throughout the supply chain,” USP researchers wrote in the Journal of Food Science.

Melamine, for instance, has occasionally appeared in pet food, infant formula and even milk, despite a number of child deaths linked to the chemical overseas, MSNBC noted.

Ingredient substitutions are subject to few regulatory restrictions. “There is a general sense that food fraud is a major global problem for the food industry,” Jeff Moore, a USP researcher, told MSNBC. “But no one knows the size of the problem. No one has collected and compiled all the information in the public domain on this topic.”

“This database is a critical step in protecting consumers,” Dr. John Spink, one for the researchers, commented in a USP statement. “Food fraud and economically motivated adulteration have not received the warranted attention given the potential danger they present.”

The USP’s database is available to the public at its website.

Article printed from InvestorPlace Media,

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