We buy our food products blindly believing the package is telling us the truth. What if we told you they weren’t, and doing so deliberately. Food fraud is the deliberate mislabeling of food products for financial gain. The United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) reports a 60% increase in the number of food frauds detected in 2013. Food fraud culprits pack ingredients that could be harmful to our health into our everyday foods more often than you’d think.
Passing off fraudulent food for the real deal is not a new concept. In the Middle Ages when the price of imported spices increased, merchants would regularly add seeds, stones, or dusts as a substitute for spice. Dirty water, chalk or plaster are common dilutions in milk.
As barbaric as that sounds, fraud to this extreme is still going on today. Next time you’re in the grocery store, look out for milk, olive oil, honey, and saffron among others. These products are the most common fraudulent food products that have been tampered with. They’re also some of the most common ones found in your pantry!
What are agencies doing to prevent food fraud? To help keep track of reported incidents, the US Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) created a database. These databases can help decrease food fraud by informing consumers, retailers, and manufacturers. In 2015, the US government announced it was implementing a system to track the fraud occurring in the seafood industry.
Remember, buy whole foods when you can and shop at trusted farmers markets. Food fraud incidents will continue to occur if we don’t understand where our food comes from.
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