You may think you know what you are putting in your mouth, when in reality, you are eating something different from what you planned. Food fraud is becoming a large issue worldwide. Not only is it misleading to customers, it could also be dangerous.
Olive oil is one of the better oils for you because rather than coming from a seed, it comes from a fruit. It contains healthy antioxidants and other health benefits. In his book “Extra Virginity,” Tom Mueller goes around the world and talks to olive oil farmers about their job and the global oil market. One of the commonly occurring issues he found was that the farmers who made real, top quality oil weren’t able to make a living off of it because customers would rather buy the less expensive oil. The reason why that oil is inexpensive is because it contains unhealthy oil from seeds, such as flax, soy and peanuts, but is still labeled as the top choice extra-virgin olive oil. People aren’t paying what they are getting for and are being tricked. This could be life-threatening to someone with an allergy to something that should not even be in the food in the first place.
After reading this, I questioned the olive oil in my pantry, on the shelves of the store and even other food at the supermarket. Those “health benefits” could be doing exactly the opposite or could get us sick. You don’t know what could happen in the future because you ate it. It’s not necessarily food poisoning because it doesn’t affect your system in a way where it needs to get it all out as quickly as possible.
Stefanie Giesselbach had used growers, importers, and distributors to sell Chinese-produced honey at a profit of $80 million to avoid certain taxes and tariffs. According to Women’s Health magazine: “[Her] arrest opened the door to one of the largest cases of food fraud this country had ever seen and shed light on a crime that experts believe is rampant, and a serious threat to our food safety. As the details unspooled over the next four years, it became clearer how adulterated foods or mislabeled foods – which by some estimates make up close to 7 percent of our food supply – slip undetected into the U.S.”
There’s a possibility that the honey you eat contains sugar syrup, corn syrup, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, and beet sugar. Now that’s not from bees.
Even restaurants mislabel food. Seafood is a common commodity in Massachusetts. A year ago, a Boston Globe investigation found that restaurants and stores across Massachusetts were misleading consumers by advertising less expensive, low-quality fish as gourmet dishes and that most are still mislabeling seafood. It makes sense to me why restaurants would do this in order to earn more money through their menus, but with a struggling fish market, customers should understand that a lot of the top-quality fish that they want is not available. Restaurants take advantage of customers by overcharging for something they aren’t even getting. What worries me the most about fraudulent fish is sushi. Sushi requires top grade fish stored at the right temperature for a short amount of time. Eating raw fish can be dangerous and harmful to your body if not housed correctly.
For all of those coffee drinkers out there, this might be some disappointing news for you. Researchers have found twigs, roasted corn, ground roasted barley and ground roasted parchment in coffee grinds. I don’t think you can get much of a caffeine boost from that. Instead, you might want to eat an apple in the morning, which is proven to wake you up just as much as a cup of coffee. Not apple juice, though, especially because researchers have found grape juice, high fructose corn syrup, pear juice, pineapple juice, raisin sweetener, fig juice, fructose and malic acid in the family friendly beverage.
As long as I am not being hurt by fraudulent food, it doesn’t make as much of a difference to me; it mostly makes me angry that people are paying for something they think they are getting, but aren’t. This could be scary because there is no way to monitor food fraud and it is extremely hard to detect, unless you test the food. An average person wouldn’t be able to do so without advanced technology. Some people would rather not know if they are eating something they don’t expect, while others want to know if they are being deceived. I don’t enjoy being lied to, but I also don’t enjoy be paranoid about everything I eat. So unless it is very suspicious, it might be best to just accept what you are told it is and eat it.
Karen Podorefsky is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at email@example.com.