In a conscious effort to make clean eating part of your daily routine this new year, you may gravitate towards foods labeled as organic, fat-free, all natural or locally grown in the aisles of your local grocery store. But have you ever wondered what those phrases and certifications on food labels really mean?
It's important to educate yourself on the validity of some of these claims, as we are regularly finding that some brands are taking advantage of consumer perceptions and committing "food fraud".
The scary truth is that food fraud is becoming more and more prevalent in the United States and foods we eat every day are packed with things that are not supposed to be there like food additives and fillers. What exactly is food fraud? Essentially, food fraud is a collective term used to encompass the deliberate and intentional substitution, addition, tampering, or misrepresentation of food, food ingredients, or food packaging; or false or misleading statements made about a product, for economic gain. Not only is this morally wrong, but certain added ingredients can even lead to digestive issues. Yikes.
Here are just two (of many) famous food fraud examples:
- Naked Juice—Naked was sued for overstating its health benefits
- Olive Oil—Oil fraud is a real thing. 60 Minutes estimated that a staggering 80-85% of all oil labeled extra virgin in the U.S. is not actually extra virgin at all.
Dr. John Spink of Michigan State University’s Food Fraud Initiative has identified six distinct kinds of food fraud:
- Adulteration: A component of the finished product is fraudulent.
- Over-run: Legitimate product is made in excess of production agreements.
- Theft: Legitimate product is stolen and passed off as legitimately procured.
- Diversion: The sale or distribution of legitimate products outside of intended markets.
- Simulation: Illegitimate product is designed to look like, but not exactly copy, the legitimate product.
- Counterfeit: All aspects of the fraudulent product and packaging are fully replicated.
Clean Eating or Just Hype?
Food fraud can sneak up and sabotage what you think are clean eating choices. Here are some common forms of food fraud to be on the lookout for when evaluating your options for healthy eating.
Honey is one of the worst food fraud offenders. Honey can be loaded with additives like high fructose syrup, glucose and corn syrup. According to Food Safety News, some honey is laced with illegal Chinese antibiotics and heavy metals. Ideally, you should look for raw honey from local farmers/distributors whenever possible.
Vanilla is the second most expensive spice and is often made up of vanillin instead of vanilla. Check the labels!
Coffee is a common food fraud since it is easy to hide other brown things like twigs (seriously), roasted corn, burned sugar, figs, glucose and roasted barley mixed in with coffee grounds. Instead, buy whole coffee beans to avoid those hidden non-coffee ingredients.
Ground Black Pepper
Black pepper has a history of containing things like millet, starch, papaya seeds, flour and buckwheat. Buy whole peppercorns and a grinder to just do it yourself.
Be wary of milk. Milk is another common food fraud out there. Milk can contain a nightmarish list of adulterants such as formaldehyde, hydrogen peroxide, machine oil, starch, pork lard, sugar and salt. Gulp.
Oceana.org found that 39 percent of seafood in NYC alone was mislabeled. Fish labeled “white tuna” are often a fish called Escolar, which is banned in Japan and Italy for its waxy esters, which may cause food poisoning.
The moral of the story? Do not be scared by all this information, but be aware. Don’t let food fraud sabotage your healthy eating endeavors.
PARTNER WITH LIFESCAPE TO ACHIEVE YOUR WHOLE HEALTH GOALS
While there are many nutritional programs out there, LifeScape vets out the science, technology and efficacy of each one before prescribing them to any patient. Our doctors and nutritionist partner with you to determine the best plan of action to help you live your most beautiful life - inside and out! Programs include nutritional counseling, weight management, resolving dietary deficiencies or addressing inflammatory foods that may be leading to chronic conditions or illness.
Through a series of sessions, we identify how to best help you with your nutrition and clean eating goals. There are many factors that influence how we eat in today’s busy world - and how we feel as a result of that. We are diligent about identifying options to help you find the healthy habits that work best for you.
This blog post was originally published January 10, 2018.
References: http://www.extracrispy.com/food/3039/11-food-frauds-youre-probably-falling-for, http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20599288,00.html#healthy-or-just-hype--1, https://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/stories/food-fraud-10-counterfeit-products-we-commonly-consume, https://www.prevention.com/food/healthy-eating-tips/food-fraud-11-most-common-cases, http://fsns.com/news/what-is-food-fraud, https://firstwefeast.com/features/2016/08/food-fraud-at-supermarkets/, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/20/food-fraud-hoax-grocery-store_n_1439995.html, https://www.cbsnews.com/media/food-frauds-10-most-adulterated-foods/, https://www.forbes.com/sites/larryolmsted/2016/07/11/fake-food-scandals-a-bad-year-for-food-lovers/#7ec7123ae75b