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When you order sushi at your favorite restaurant or pick up a pound of coffee from your local supermarket, you assume you’re getting the red snapper or Columbian beans as stated on the menu or label.
But not so fast. A growing number of cases of “food fraud” are occurring in the United States, such that you may not be able to tell what you’re really eating just by looking at the label.
Worse still, most of these cases are not highly publicized incidents like the recent scandal of UK supermarkets selling “beef” burgers that actually contained horse and pig meat. Instead, they’re ongoing cases of blatant misrepresentation among some incredibly common foods.
What Is Food Fraud?
Food fraud, defined as “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,”1 is the focus of the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention’s (USP) Food Fraud Database,2 which already has more than 1,300 records of food fraud published from 1980 to 2010.
A recent update, which added in cases from 2011 and 2012, increased the number of records by 60 percent, or nearly 800 new records, and includes some foods you very well may eat every day, like olive oil, honey, seafood and orange juice.
In some cases, the foods were diluted with ingredients not listed on the label. In others, the food was something entirely different than it claimed to be.