3 Tips to Help You Avoid Food Fraud

credit: stevendepolo

credit: stevendepolo

by WellnessFX practitioner Dr. Jeffrey Edman

You are at your favorite restaurant and the waiter places the grilled white tuna over steamed vegetables in front of you. You take a sip from your wine and prepare to dive in, but something could be very wrong with this picture.

The white tuna is very likely not to be tuna at all, it’s unlikely all the vegetables are organic as stated on the menu, and the wine may contain compounds to enhance its flavor – something that shouldn’t be ingested by a human being.

We place an enormous amount of trust in those providing and preparing food for us. But how do we know exactly WHAT we are eating?  The truth is, we don’t.

As most of us are consumers and not producers, we must trust those who are providing our food. But should we? The disconnection of the consumer from the intermediate steps of the global food supply allows all sorts of mischief ranging from relatively benign mislabeling to outright dangerous adulteration.

There have been several food frauds that have only come to our attention because the perpetrators have added toxic substances to their products. Melamine in Chinese milk and American dog food, the addition of lead to paprika, and diethylene glycol (an industrial solvent similar to antifreeze) to sweet wines in Europe are just some examples of toxins that may be added to our foods to enhance their commercial value.

Even when foods aren’t necessarily toxic, they’re misrepresented as being something other than what they are. This is particularly rampant in the marketing of fish. A recent report by Oceana documents that 1/3 (33%) of seafood samples were mislabeled. Tuna and snapper had the highest mislabeling rates (59 and 87%, respectively). Only seven of 120 “snapper” samples nationwide were actually red snapper.

The U.S. Pharmacopeia has started a food fraud database that is searchable online. As a result of preparing this database, researchers have shown that following foods are most frequent subject to fraud.

  1. Olive oil: Often mixed with cheaper oils. Even extra virgin olive oil can be suspect.
  2. Milk: Found to contain non-milk foods like vegetable oil, whey, and sugar, in addition to toxic compounds like melamine and formaldehyde.
  3. Honey: Often contains high-fructose corn syrup, beet sugar, sucrose and oils.
  4. Saffron: This expensive spice is often not saffron at all and could be anything from food dye to marigold flowers.
  5. Orange juice: It seems like just about anything can be added to orange juice. Sugars, other juices, flower extracts, and many others have been found.
  6. Coffee: Ground or instant coffee have been shown to contain roasted corn, twigs, chicory, and caramel, among others.
  7. Apple juice: can contain corn syrup, raisin sweetener, sugar and other juices, such as grape or pineapple.

An accompanying report with the development of the database categorized fraud into three types:

  1. Replacement: The complete or partial replacement of a food ingredient with a less expensive substitute (e.g sugar for honey, mislabeling of fish).
  2. Addition: The addition of a non-authentic substance to mask the inferior quality of the product (e.g. addition of sugar to juice to enhance sweetness).
  3. Removal: Removal of an authentic and valuable constituent of a food (e.g paprika that has been extracted to remove its natural taste).

You have probably been a victim of some sort of food fraud. There simply is too much money in it. However, there are ways to protect yourself.

3 Tips For Avoiding Food Fraud

  1. Buy the least processed food available. Purchase whole bean coffee instead of ground, make your own juices and jams from local fruit, and buy milk and meat from local farms or farm shares.
  2. Avoid foods that have long, confusing labels. Michael Pollan once said that if there are more than three ingredients on the label, it probably isn’t worth eating.
  3. Shop at farmer’s markets and natural food stores. While not a guarantee, these sources are more likely to have real food.

smilsmlredAs a physician, scientist, and teacher, Dr. Edman provides proven alternative approaches to the prevention and treatment of disease. He specializes in the evaluation and treatment of fatigue, thyroid, adrenal, allergic and weight issues. Dr. Edman was trained in traditional (allopathic) medicine. However, through his personal journey, research, and training, he has come to embrace an integrative approach to the prevention and treatment of disease. Dr. Edman is also one of WellnessFX’s prized practitioners.

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The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.